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Activists Targeting Bear Hunt In Court

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Permits went on sale Monday for the first bear hunt in Florida in more than 20 years, even though opponents have gone to court to stop it. At least one conservationist is comparing it with a world furor over the recent shooting of an African lion.

Longwood environmentalist Chuck O’Neal is worried about a rush of hunters heading to Florida looking for a trophy, like the Minnesota dentist reviled for shooting a protected animal in Zimbabwe.

“The hunter that shot Cecil the Lion would probably be the first in line to buy a permit to hunt the Florida black bear.”

O’Neal is suing the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alleging the bear hunt violates its constitutional mandate to protect game.

Commission division director Diane Eggeman says she can’t comment on pending litigation. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday how many permits have been sold for the weeklong hunt, but she says they are widely available.

“The way hunters would get permits are through online at “myfwc.com,” through our regular hunting license vendors, which include tax collectors’ offices, some sporting goods stores and some retail stores and also through telephone.”

Hunting licenses cost 100 dollars for residents and 300 dollars for non-residents. 

Regulators say a recent count puts the bear population at about 3,000. They expect 320 bears to be killed during the season.

Bears must weigh 100 pounds or more and cubs, or adults seen with cubs, are off limits.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.