Bears and Hunting Appear Stable, Biologists Report

LITTLE ROCK - Both bear populations and hunting of them in Arkansas are right in line with expectations, according to wildlife biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Myron Means, bear program coordinator with the agency, told AGFC's commissioners at their February meeting that the total numbers of bears in Arkansas are stable and may be slowly expanding in the state.

Arkansas in its early days had the nickname of the Bear State. The plentiful bears disappeared long ago due to commercial hunting of them and clearing of forests. A small number remained along the lower White River. Restoration began in the late 1950s with animals brought in from northern areas, and these flourished to the point that limit hunting was started in 1980.

Hunters in the fall 2008 season checked 380 bears in the zones open to hunting. Means said, "This is right in line with our goal."

Zone 1, the Ozark Mountains, had 225 bears taken by hunters or about 60 percent of the state total. The Ozarks and Ouachitas were where the original restoration bears were turned loose and have been the prime hunting region since 1980.

Zone 2, the Ouachitas, had 134 bears checked. Zone 5 in southeast Arkansas had 17 and Zone 5A, a small area also in southeast Arkansas had 5.

Means reported that archery and crossbow hunters killed 189 bears, muzzleloader hunters 61 and modern gun hunters 131. Baiting for bear hunting is legal on private lands, and 130 of the bears were reported taken with the aid of bait. No bait can be used on any public land in Arkansas, and baiting for bears is prohibited anywhere in Arkansas outside the prescribed hunting times.