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Missouri weighs longer hunting seasons for some fur-bearers

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri conservation officials are considering a plan to extend the hunting season for species such as bobcats and raccoons that are typically killed for their fur.

A proposal from the state Department of Conservation would extend the season for eight so-called fur-bearing species. They include raccoons, opossum, coyotes, mink, muskrats, river otters, bobcats and striped skunk.

The Missouri Conservation Commission gave preliminary approval in December to a plan to expand the hunting period by more than three months for some species, St. Louis Public Radio reported Wednesday.

Interest in fur trapping has declined in recent decades, and as a result, populations of some breeds, including coyotes and raccoons, are flourishing. State wildlife biologists say that opens the door to additional hunting.

Missouri hunters collected nearly 835,000 animal pelts in 1940, about 70% of which were from opossum and raccoons. By contrast, hunters sold or registered about 41,000 fur pelts during the 2019-20 hunting season.

For most species, the season length would increase by no more than one month. But for raccoons and opossum, the overall yearly hunting period would be 3½ months longer.

Turkey hunters are among those advocating for the change. They’re concerned that an increase in predator populations may be contributing to declines in chick survival.

“A lot of people are anxious to do something because of the turkey nesting,” Conservation Commissioner Steven Harrison said at a meeting. He was disappointed that the proposed regulations wouldn’t begin until June, after the turkey nesting season.

A final vote is expected after the public comment period, which runs from Jan. 19 to Feb. 17.

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