Southeastern Oklahoma no longer will be a sanctuary for black bears if a bill that won unanimous approval Monday in the House becomes law. House Bill 1464 allows up to 20 black bears to be killed during the fall in four southeastern counties, said Rep. R.C. Pruett, the measure’s author.
Pruett, D-Antlers, said he filed the measure because a growing number of residents have filed nuisance complaints about black bears — which can weigh about 500 pounds — coming by their houses and rooting through trash. HB 1464 now goes to the Senate, where a similar measure is pending after a Senate committee passed it earlier this month. Last year, a similar bill was passed by a House committee but the full House didn’t hear it. Pruett, who said he might hunt black bear, said the season would probably start in November before black bears head to their dens. It would end when 20 were harvested in an area that covers Pushmataha, McCurtain, Latimer and Le Flore counties. It’s estimated about 500 bears inhabit those counties; about 700 to 800 are estimated to be living in the entire state. A bear hunting permit would have to be bought in addition to an Oklahoma hunter’s license, he said. Residents would pay $100 for the bear permit and out-of-state residents would pay $500. He said he’s had "a few complaints” from people who are opposed to black bears being hunted. No one spoke against the bill on the House floor. Robert "Bud” Scott, a lobbyist for the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, said his organization is not opposing the bill. "So long as there’s sound conservation practices put in place that will ensure the integrity of the species, we’re OK — as long as it’s regulated well by the Department of Wildlife,” he said. Rep.