The Missouri state wildlife commission will vote this Friday on whether to allow trophy hunters to target the state’s small and still-recovering black bear population. If the proposal passes, up to 500 individuals could get permits to kill bears, including cubs unaccompanied by their mothers. Only a handful of states allow the heinous practice of killing cubs.
Members of the Missouri Department of Conservation Commission, which is made up of political appointees, know that a vast majority of Missourians unequivocally oppose the hunt. Missourians submitted thousands of comments in opposition to the hunt, while fewer than 100 residents support it, according to information we obtained through a public records request.
Nearly 14,000 individuals also signed an online petition suggesting they would boycott travel to the Show-Me State if the bear hunt is allowed to move forward. A Remington Research Group poll we commissioned earlier this year found that 67% of Missourians do not support black bear trophy hunting.
It should be abundantly clear to the MDC by now that Missourians simply do not want this hunt. Most state residents understand the immense benefits that bears provide to the environments they live in and to the state’s tourism revenue. Tourism brings an estimated $18 billion annually to Missouri’s economy, and each year, millions of tourists throng to the state’s Ozark mountains, many hoping to catch a glimpse of these beloved animals.
The only people who do want Missouri to open a bear hunt are trophy hunters who want to kill these animals for bragging rights. The trophy hunting industry’s fingerprints are, in fact, all over Missouri’s bear hunting proposal, and the Safari Club International Foundation partially funded one of the state’s preliminary bear population studies.
A new study on the economics of trophy hunting in the United States found that trophy hunters benefit largely from public and private lands largely maintained by non-hunters, and that federal taxes from all Americans, rather than from a minority of hunters, contribute to the funding of state wildlife management agencies. MDC officials would do well, then, to remember that they work at the will of the state’s taxpayers, not trophy hunting lobbies. They are tasked with the job of conserving the state’s wildlife, not offering wild animals for slaughter.
Missouri’s black bear population was nearly extirpated by the 1920s because of overhunting and logging, which decimated the bears’ habitat. These animals, so slow to reproduce, have not yet fully recovered and a hunt is the last thing they need. The MDC estimates that the current black bear population in the state is between 540 and 840 bears but this is just a guess and the numbers could, in fact, be lower. Allowing 500 hunting permits has the potential to wipe out the entire black bear population in Missouri, setting the clock back on all progress made over the decades. We urge the agency to do the right thing, honor the public’s wishes and keep Missouri’s black bears protected.