the past four years, seven bears died after being hit by vehicles, Holmes said.
Bear hunting legislation passed with little opposition last session.
Biologists hope that a hunting season will help them learn more about southeastern Oklahoma’s bear population.
When a bear is killed, a biologist will meet the hunter, help the hunter remove the animal from the woods and then take a tooth from the animal to determine its age and a hair sample for DNA analysis, Holmes said.
Before statehood, bears lived in Oklahoma, but the population dwindled.
The bears that now live in the mountainous region of southeastern Oklahoma are part of a group that was reintroduced into the Ozark and Ouachita mountains in Arkansas in the late 1950s and 1960s. The bears were from Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada, Holmes said.
A study by Oklahoma State University biologists estimate there are at least 500 black bears in Oklahoma. Researchers captured bears and put radio collars on the animals to track their movement and learn more about them. The oldest bear in the study was 11, and the average age was 3.7 years old.
"We still have a pretty young population,” Holmes said. "The population is still growing, and these hunts will help us better manage the population and get rid of nuisance bears.”
Ed Godfrey: The state's first bear season begins...