HOT SPRINGS - This summer, researchers from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the University of Arkansas at Monticello will attempt to determine whether bear zone 4, in the Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas, will join the state’s four bear zones open for hunting.

“What we hope to see from this information is whether there’s a sustainable population,” said Myron Means, AGFC Large Carnivore Program coordinator. “If it is, we’ll proceed with a hunt.”

For a six-week period beginning July 1, researchers will set up “hair traps” to figure out population densities of bears. The traps are rings of barbed wire around trees, which are baited. As bears investigate the bait, they rub against the barbed wire, which snags hairs. The hairs then can be analyzed and DNA tested to determine how many bears visited each bait site. From there, biologists can estimate total populations in the area.

Unlike the Ouachitas and Ozarks, much of the land in southern Arkansas is privately owned, which makes research more difficult. While many hunters in the Gulf Coastal Plain have turned in images of destroyed feeders or bears during the last few years, biologists are looking for more sites to document reproducing populations of bears to monitor and expand the hunting season. Any landowners in bear zone 4 who capture videos or photos of bears with cubs this spring are asked to contact the AGFC’s Camden Regional Office, 877-836-4612. Biologists hope to increase the number of collared bears for research in the area to further justify the need for a hunting season.