Missouri’s proposal to open season on black bears has the trophy hunting industry’s fingerprints all over it. But the state’s residents now have a chance to voice their opposition to it.
The Missouri Department of Conservation has just opened formal public comment on this ill-conceived plan, based on biased research at least partially funded by the Safari Club International Foundation, a sister organization of Safari Club International, the nation’s largest trophy hunting industry group, and its affiliate, the Hunter Legacy 100 Fund.
According to the SCIF website, these two groups have together contributed $82,000 for “research” on the “Missouri Black Bear Project” since 2011.
It is sickening that Missouri would allow a foundation related to a trophy hunting industry group to control its wildlife management policy. We have seen so many states, like Colorado and Washington, and even the federal government, play into the hands of trophy hunters time and again in recent years while ignoring real research and science. But MDC officials, whose job is to protect wildlife and not create policy tailored to suit trophy hunters, should consider just what’s at stake here: If they push forward with this plan, their state could be in real danger of losing its black bears forever.
Missouri nearly wiped out its bear population in the early 1900s because of overhunting and logging, which decimated the bears’ habitat. These slow-reproducing animals are still in the midst of their recovery. The MDC’s biased research (funded by SCIF) estimates there are now approximately 540 to 840 bears in the state—a number many believe is exaggerated. The proposal anticipates that Missouri will hand out 250 to 500 bear hunting permits, so if it passes, hunters could, potentially, once again decimate nearly all the black bears in the state, reversing all of the progress made so far.
Such carnage is entirely plausible. We have seen this happen in Florida in 2015, where nearly 300 bears were killed over just the first two days of a hunting season.
As if all of this isn’t awful enough, the proposed rule also contains no prohibition on the killing of unaccompanied bear cubs. While mother bears with cubs would be protected, if a mom happens to leave a cub alone while foraging for food, there’s nothing in the proposed rule right now that says a trophy hunter couldn’t kill the mother—or the cub.
Missouri needs its bears: these animals play critical roles in their ecosystems and spread more seeds than even birds. They are highly sentient and they are loved and valued by most Americans.
SCI touts itself as a “conservation” organization, but the singular agenda of this group is to promote the killing of threatened and endangered species around the world, the rarer the better. These wealthy trophy hunters with their deep pockets would love to have their way with Missouri’s black bears. But it’s the state’s residents—who value bears and contribute millions of dollars through Missouri’s conservation sales tax each year—that should be guiding wildlife policy. When the MDC opened a comment period on this proposed carnage in June, thousands of Missouri residents wrote in opposition. Now they have one last chance to make their voices heard. If you live in Missouri, please comment here and oppose this terrible plan. If you live outside Missouri, let the Missouri Division of Tourism know that you have no interest in visiting a state that exploits its wildlife at the bidding of trophy hunters.