Bear spotted raiding a bird feeder in Osage in 2015. (DNR photo)

Black bears would become a protected species under legislation working its way through the Iowa House. Representative Dave Jacoby of Coralville says the goal is to let state officials regulate hunting if the black bear population grows.

“I think it’s important for Iowans if we do see a shift or a reintroduction naturally of black bear in Iowa that we have a system,” Jacoby says, “that we don’t want to shoot them on site, but going through the Department (of Natural Resources) and the legislature decide on how we want to handle possible open hunting seasons.”

Jacoby sponsored the bill after hearing from a number of people in Winneshiek County.  “A couple of years ago a couple of some black bear were seen in Winneshiek (County),” Jacoby says, “and I think there’s also some black bear that venture into Iowa more than we know.”

The bill directs the Department of Natural Resources to monitor the population of black bear in Iowa and set up a hunting season if the population needs to be controlled or reduced at any point.

“I happen to be experience in Superior National Forest up north,” Jacoby says. “I’ve been around bears for the last 40 years and frankly I’m more scared of getting trampled by a moose than a bear.”

Todd Coffelt of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says if the population increases, a so-called “season” for black bear should be included in the part of state law about fur harvesting. “Even though we may use the word hunt for black bears,” Coffelt says.

For example, there’s currently a coyote season in Iowa, alongside seasons for trapping smaller animals like mink and muskrats. That season started November 5th and ends January 31st.

Jacoby’s bill has cleared a House subcommittee and is eligible for consideration in the House Natural Resources Committee.