State conservation officials are calling this first Missouri black bear hunting season a "growling" success.

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The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that 12 bears were taken during this first-ever bear season, which ran October 18-27.

The state had set a limit of 400 permits issued to hunters and no more than 40 bears harvested.

“This was an incredibly successful first bear hunting season for Missouri given that we have a highly regulated season, that bears in the state are widely distributed throughout some pretty rugged wilderness, and that many hunters had never hunted bears before,” said MDC State Furbearer and Black Bear Biologist Laura Conlee. “A harvest of 12 bears in our first season is testament to the hunters. Bear hunting is an extremely challenging endeavor, especially under the framework that we established. This was a new experience for many hunters, and they put in the work to be successful and take advantage of this new hunting opportunity.”

The state was divided into three hunting zones for bear hunters, all of them south of the Missouri River. Zone 1 was in southwest Missouri, from Interstate 44 to the Arkansas line. Zone 2 ran from St. Louis south and west, taking in the Mark Twain National Forest. Zone 3 included the area from Springfield and Joplin north to the Missouri River.

Nine of the bears bagged were in Zone 1, while the other three were taken in Zone 2.

Another of the successful hunters was Kelsie Wikoff of Hume, who harvested a 268-pound male after spending 48 hours in a tree stand over three days.

Officials estimate there are about 800 black bears that call Missouri home.

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