Missouri, a state that once nearly wiped out its black bear population, has clearly failed to learn from its mistakes. This morning, the four-member Missouri Department of Conservation Commission, made up of political appointees, voted unanimously to allow trophy hunters to kill its black bears despite the fact that most Missourians do not support such a hunt.
The state would also allow hunters to kill cubs unaccompanied by their mothers—a heinous practice most other states reject.
The commission members knew when they voted today that they were going against the will of a majority of Missourians. More than 2,000 comments were submitted to the agency about the proposal earlier this year. Only about 100 of those comments supported a trophy hunt.
The proposal itself makes no sense from a conservation perspective because the numbers just don’t add up. The MDC estimates that Missouri has approximately 540 to 840 bears—a number that is, at best, a guess, and that could be lower. The proposal passed today would allow for up to 500 bear hunting permits to be issued during the season that would begin next October. Potentially, trophy hunters could wipe out the state’s entire bear population in a single season.
The only group that stands to benefit from the decision are trophy hunters, who represent a miniscule percentage of the state’s population. Fewer than 8% of Missouri residents held a paid hunting license in 2020, and a recent economic study found that only about 2% of the hunters in the state are trophy hunters, who seek to kill animals only for their heads, hides, or for bragging rights.
But this small percentage of Missouri citizens has the support of well-funded trophy hunting groups like Safari Club International (SCI), which lobby heavily in states to open hunting seasons on carnivores like wolves, grizzly bears and black bears. The SCI Foundation, which claims to have “invested over millions on North American conservation projects, working on nearly every big game species in 22 US states and Canadian provinces,” has contributed $82,000 for “research” on the “Missouri Black Bear Project” since 2011, along with its affiliate, the Hunter Legacy 100 Fund.
It is shameful that the MDC and the commission chose to pander to these special interests, while ignoring the interests of the animals and the wishes of the state’s residents. But this fight is not over. We won’t give up that easily, and we don’t intend to give the last word to these so-called guardians of wildlife who sold the state’s black bears out today to trophy hunters shopping for bearskin rugs and heads on their walls.