Oklahoma will become the 29th state to allow bear hunting when the season opens later this week.
Hunters will be able to hunt black bears in four southeastern Oklahoma counties beginning Thursday. Lawmakers last session approved a measure to legalize the hunting. Gov. Brad Henry signed the bill into law in April.
Hunting is limited to Latimer, Le Flore, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties. In those counties, residents say bears have become a nuisance, disturbing people and getting into trash.
Hunters must purchase a special license. Only 20 bears may be killed during the archery and muzzle loader season.
When the quota is met, the season will end.
Hunters must check by phone or online at wildlifedepartment.com to make sure the quota hasn’t been met before hunting each day.
"We’re pretty excited about it,” said Micah Holmes, spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It’s a big deal for us. There has been a lot of interest in it, and it has been a long time coming.”
The price of a license for in-state hunters is $100; it’s $500 for nonresidents. The proceeds from the license will go to the agency, which is funded primarily by user fees, Holmes said.
The law forbids hunters from using dogs to chase bears up into trees. Hunters can set out bait if they are on private property, but bears cannot be baited on public land, Holmes said.
Since 1991, the Department of Wildlife Conservation has received about 500 calls of bears being a nuisance, Holmes said. Officials went out to investigate about half the calls, he said.
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