Survey could lead to southern Arkansas bear hunting

A survey is gauging the number of encounters people have with black bears to determine if hunting should be allowed in southern Arkansas.

Bear hunting is mostly legal only in northwest Arkansas, but a survey could determine if there will be a bear hunting season in South Arkansas.

Black bears used to be a rare sight. Just ask Louis Janski, General Manager at Fort Thompson.

"Say 10 or 15 years ago if someone saw a black bear it was a big deal," said Thompson. “First couple years we would have maybe three to four bears coming to a bait site.”

He’s witnessed the population grow.

“This year we counted 10 different bears on one site,” said Thompson.

With a growing population, Arkansas Game and Fish is keeping a watchful eye on bears not just in northwest Arkansas, but now throughout the state.

"We know that bears are expanding from the Ozark and Ouachita’s and also remnant population in southeast Arkansas and starting to inhabit the Gulf Coastal Plain," said Trey Reid with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

That’s why they’re asking for data especially from those in southern Arkansas where hunting is currently illegal.

"Main thing is to see there is a sustainable population," said Reid.

Bear hunting was legalized in parts of Arkansas in the 1980s, years after game and fish brought in several hundred to inhabit the state and since, the population has grown and spread.

"They typically go into areas where they are fewer males and sparser populations so they don’t have as much competition with other males," said Reid.

Reid estimates there are nearly 6,000 bears across the state.

If you see a bear, you can fill out the survey here.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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