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FWC Sets June For Comment, Quota Review On Next Bear Hunt

The Florida Black Bear
Southwest Florida Water Management District

Florida’s Wildlife Commission will decide in June how to manage future bear hunts. Last year, the state held its first hunt in more than 30 years, with more than 300 bears killed.

In March,  state wildlife experts released a revised estimate showing more than 4,300 adult bears in Florida. There are an additional 2,000 cubs, and FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley says half of those are expected to make it into adulthood.

So we're seeing reproduction successfully, and we're just glad to see that we have a large, robust bear population," he said. "We should take a moment to think about how far we've come in the last 20-25 years with this species."

Most of the bears are in the Ocala National forest. There are also big populations in the Eastern panhandle. The Florida legislature approved $500,000 to help with bear management. Sixty percent of the dollars go the 14 counties with the most bear impact. From there, the dollars are steered to local governments that have bear management polices in place. Marion and Lake County are using some of the funds to subsidize the cost of bear-resistant garbage cans. Seminole County Schools has purchased bear-resistant cans for some of its rural schools.

Wednesday, Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski said it’s now up to the commission to set new quota numbers for a future hunt:

“A lot of folks are asking about next season, a bear hunt, and how that might or might not happen. There’s a rule that has a bear hunt. What we do as a commission is establish harvest objectives in units.”

The bear hunt is established in state rules, though a spokeswoman for FWC says whether one will be held this year hasn't been decided yet. 

The quota is the number of bears that can be killed. Last year’s figure was 320 bears based upon estimates showing more than 3,000 in the state, up from 300 in the 1970’s. In 2012, the state removed the Florida Black Bear from its endangered list.

Last year's hunt was preceded by a spate of bear-human encounters and attacks. Many people  condemned the hunt, but a lawsuit to stop it failed.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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