Bears have a firm foothold in Oklahoma
It’s the breeding season for black bears in eastern Oklahoma and the time of year when the young ones are on the move.
“Mamas are running off the babies,” said Joe Hemphill, southeast wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Last Sunday, a young 100-pound female bear had to be removed by state wildlife officials from downtown Poteau. This year, black bears have wandered into Poteau, Heavener and Atoka, Hemphill said. A bear appeared in each of those towns on the same night a few weeks ago, he said.
“I don’t know if it is the moon or what is,” Hemphill said. “Sometimes they just come out in bunches. It’s just that time of year when they are doing a lot of moving.”
The flooding on Wister Lake, trapping fish below the spillway, even attracted a bear, he said.
“We had a bear down there among the fishermen, trying to catch some of those fish,” Hemphill said.
It’s shouldn’t be a surprise anymore to anyone in Poteau, Heavener or Atoka that a bear might show up on the streets this time of year. Those towns are near black bear country, but it shouldn’t be shocking anymore to anyone east of I-35 to see a black bear, Hemphill said.
“I am not going to say it’s common, but it’s not going to be a big surprise like it used to be,” he said. “They have definitely moved their way west a little bit.”
In past years, state wildlife officials even documented a black bear from eastern Oklahoma traveling as far as two miles west of I-35 before returning home. Hemphill doesn’t think bears will stray as far from their homes this season as the abundant rain in eastern Oklahoma has produced more easily available meals for them on the ground nearby.
The black bear population continues to grow in Oklahoma although no one is sure how many bears are now living in the Sooner State.
“In our part of the world (southeastern Oklahoma), I think 1,500 to 2,000 bears is an easy estimate,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill said Oklahoma’s bear population increases by about 6 percent annually through reproduction, plus the state continues to get more bears crossing the state line from Arkansas because of hunting pressure.
“They (Arkansas) hunt their bears longer and harder (than in Oklahoma),” he said. “I guarantee you Arkansas pushes a lot bears over on us still.”
Bears once thrived in Oklahoma’s forests but were wiped out because of unregulated hunting by early settlers. By 1915, bears were believed to be gone from Oklahoma.
In the 1950s and '60s, Arkansas wildlife officials captured 250 black bears in Minnesota and Canada and reintroduced them to the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. As the bears flourished, the population eventually expanded into Oklahoma.
State wildlife officials say black bears are now established in northeastern, southeastern and even east-central Oklahoma.
OKC Gun Club to host world championship matches
The Oklahoma City Gun Club is again the site for the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association world championships beginning Friday.
The nine-day event will have about 150 contestants with shooters from the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Paraguay. It is the sixth time the world championships have been held at the OKC Gun Club, which has an elite IMHSA gun range.
In IHMSA matches, shooters must knock down heavy metallic silhouette targets of chickens, pigs, turkeys and rams from various distances from 50 up to 500 meters.
In addition to the world championships, the OKC Gun Club holds monthly IHMSA matches. For more information, call match director Jim Fields at 405-203-1268.