LITTLE ROCK – Hunters took a record number of bears during the 2009-10 Arkansas bear season. Over 530 bears were harvested. The total was over 130 more bears than the second highest total from the 2007-08 season. The harvest totals were presented to commissioners of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission during its monthly meeting today.
Bear program coordinator Myron Means said the main reason for the record harvest was the low availability of natural foods. “Baiting for bears is very effective where there’s not a lot of available food in their natural habitat,” Means said. The 2009 ice storms destroyed most of the mast crop in the northern parts of Arkansas, forcing bears to look for other food sources, Means explained.
Johnson and Van Buren counties were the two top counties for bear hunters. In Johnson County, 64 bears were harvested followed by 51 bears in Van Buren County. Archery was the favorite method for hunters that harvested a bear. Almost 70 percent of the total harvest was taken with archery equipment, followed by muzzleloader and then modern gun. Public lands hunters took 100 bears while private lands bears hunters killed 433 bears.
Means said that future considerations for bear season may include:
- Implementing harvest restrictions for Bear Zone 1 in 2010 to decrease harvest. The restrictions could include a zone quota of 200 bears.
- Implement a two-day firearms season at the beginning of archery season in 2010 to increase harvest in bear zone 2.
- A reduced bear harvest in Bear Zone 5 and 5A.
In other business, the commission:
*Approved a budget increase of $41,775 to build a cofferdam at the Jim Hinkle Spring River State Fish Hatchery at Mammoth Spring. A flash flood in October 2009 washed away the existing cofferdam.