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Myron Means, a wildlife biologist specializing in large carnivores, told the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at its monthly meeting Thursday that hunters achieved the agency's bear management goals in 2015.

Hunters killed 393 bears during the combined archery, muzzleloader and modern gun bear seasons in the portions of the state that are open to bear hunting. Means said the state has about 5,000 bears statewide and the population can sustain an annual reduction of 10 percent. Hunters killed fewer than that, but Means said that natural mortality probably made up the balance.

Calendar

NOTE For additions to this calendar, fax the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at (501) 378-3869. Information on events also may be emailed to bhendricks@arkansasonline.com

JANUARY

22 Harrisburg chapter of Ducks Unlimited banquet. National Guard armory. Jason Stewart (870) 219-0782 or duckdaddystew@yahoo.com

22 Saline County chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation hunting heritage event. Benton Event Center, 6 p.m. Jimmy Dunahoo (501) 416-1405 or jd4592@sbcglobal.net.

23 Holly Grove chapter of Ducks Unlimited banquet. Tri-State Farms building. Stanley Powell (870) 270-7331 or spowell4@yahoo.com

23 Newport chapter of Ducks Unlimited banquet. National Guard armory. Thomas Crosslin (870) 664-0234 or crosslin@arkansassteel.com

23 Lawrence County chapter of Ducks Unlimited banquet. Walnut Ridge Country Club. Adam Davis (870) 926-9568 or adavis5252@yahoo.com

"It was a little better than an average harvest, and it was right on track to where we want it," Means said.

Hunters killed 256 male bears, or boars, in 2015, and 137 females, or sows. Hunters killed 302 bears with archery equipment, 72 with modern guns and 19 with muzzleloading rifles. Hunters killed 336 bears -- 85 percent -- on private land.

Hunters killed 248 bears the Ozarks, or Bear Management Zone 1, which was two short of the season quota of 250. Of those, 160 were males. Hunters killed 33 bears in Searcy County and 31 in Madison County.

In the Ouachita Mountains, or Zone 2, hunters killed 126 bears, including 82 males. Polk County was the top bear producer with 24, followed by Scott and Yell counties with 16 each.

Hunters killed 14 bears, including 10 males, in Zone 5. Nine bears were killed in Arkansas County.

Zone 5A produced five bears, all in Desha County.

Means said he is collecting data about bear populations in Zone 4, which encompasses most of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Many bear sightings are reported there but he doesn't know how many reports are repetitive.

"We don't know if they are clustered reports," Means said. "You could have one bear at several clubs and several feeders. The perception is that you've got 50 bears when in reality it may only be two or three."

Bears inhabit almost the entire Gulf Coastal Plain, and Means said he hopes to produce sufficient data to support opening a bear season in Zone 4.

In other business, the commission:

• Voted to enter into non-surface occupancy oil and gas lease agreements with SWN Production LLC for oil and gas exploration and production activities on Rainey WMA in Pope County and Dripping Springs Access in Cleburne County. The affected area on Rainey WMA will cover 59.4 acres and two acres at Dripping Springs Access. The activities will not disturb the surface at either area.

• Approved the transfer of $180,000 to resurface the parking lot at the Lake Dardanelle State Park Weigh-In facility, and to resurface the access road to the Camp Galilee Access on Bull Shoals Lake. The money was originally designated for new ramps on the Cossatot River in Sevier County and on the DeGray Lake Recirculation Pool in Clark County. Chris Racey, chief of fisheries management, said those projects could not be completed this fiscal year because of flooding and other weather-related issues.

• Approved granting one elk hunting permit each to the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, the Arkansas Wildlife Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Each group will auction its permit.

• Authorized the wildlife management division to purchase 20 acres within the Gene Rush Buffalo River Wildlife Management Area from Roger Wilson of Bismarck.

Sports on 01/22/2016

Print Headline: Bear hunters on target; archers kill most in 2015

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