A measure to legalize black bear hunting in parts of southeast Oklahoma moved a step closer to law on Monday. The Senate voted 37-9 in favor of House Bill 1464, which would create a hunting season for black bears. The measure now goes to Gov. Brad Henry for consideration.
The bill would require a license to hunt black bears, which live in hilly and mountainous eastern Oklahoma. Only 20 could be killed in a year. The state Wildlife Conservation Department has drafted rules for the proposed season. No one spoke against the bill when it came up for Senate consideration. Sen. Jim Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, was among the senators who voted against the bill. Reynolds said he opposed the measure because the bears had recently been introduced to the area. "I have no problem with hunting, but I don’t think we should be introducing species into Oklahoma just to hunt them. I think it sets a bad precedent,” he said. "I think I’ll sleep better with that ‘no’ vote today.” Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, filed a Senate bill to create a black bear hunting season. Corn said bears in southeast Oklahoma have broken into buildings where food is stored or harmed livestock. "I think there’s enough bears in the state to have a season,” he said. "The bears have become somewhat of a nuisance.”
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BEAR SEASONUnder rules approved by the Wildlife Conservation Commission last week:
• The hunting season would take place in Pushmataha, Le Flore, McCurtain and Latimer counties.
• Hunters could only use bow and arrow or muzzleloaders during the proposed black bear season.
• The archery season would begin Oct. 1 and run through the Friday before deer muzzleloader season, which begins Oct. 25.
• Cubs or females with cubs could not be killed.
• The annual license fee would be $100 for a resident and $500 for a nonresident.
• Only 20 bears could be killed in a year.