Oklahoma Department of Wildlife seeks public input on proposed rule changes

OKLAHOMA CITY - It's a wildlife success story: after being hunted to the edge of extinction in Oklahoma, the black bear has made a huge comeback.

Most black bears can be found in Southeastern Oklahoma, but their range has been expanding, and now the area where they may be hunted is about to expand as well.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife says after studying and learning the population of bears is growing in our state, they want to open up bear hunting to more counties in Southeast Oklahoma.

“Right now it’s only in a few counties in Southeast Oklahoma and we’re talking about expanding that to 10-11 counties,” said Micah Holmes, the Information Supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

Every summer, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife comes up with suggestions to improve hunting and fishing regulations in the state. They then seek public input.

In March, expanding the state's bear hunting range is one of the topics up for discussion.

“We think that hunters should have as much opportunities as the population will stand,” said Holmes.

Holmes says they spend a lot of time managing bears in Oklahoma.

GPS collars help track their range, hair snares provide DNA analysis, and some bears are even tranquilized to examine their health.

“It gives us a real good idea of how many bears are out there on our landscape, how far they are moving, how many hunters are taking, how many die of natural causes and what bears are problem bears,” said Holmes.

If the hunting range expansion is approved, it will include the area South of I-40 and East of Highway 69.

“We are eager to hear from the public,” said Holmes. “That's why we do this process. We hope folks will come to the meeting. We hope folks will take part in the online survey.”

The public hearing is on March 7th at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

You can also go online to their website and submit your thoughts on the proposed rule changes.

Hunters use both bow-and-arrow and rifle to hunt bears and some people say bear meat is tasty after slow-smoking.

Hunters must get a license, and are allowed one bear per year.