On Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved the state’s first bear hunt in 21 years. According to the current FWC plan, the week-long season will take place from October 24 to 30 in four bear management regions across Florida.
“It is necessary to remove some of these bears from these habitats or they are going to end up in the suburbs, where it is a death sentence,” Newton Cook, who attended the four-hour public FWC meeting on Wednesday, told News 13.
Pressure on officials to reopen the bear hunt had been mounting since early 2014, when a number of bear attacks alarmed residents and lawmakers. Shortly after a woman was dragged from her garage by a black bear in Lake Mary in April, 12 state lawmakers sent a letter to FWC executive director Nick Wiley, urging him to consider a limited hunting season. FWC biologists confirm that Florida’s bear population has been booming and as of last year, there is an estimated 4,000 bruins living in the state—and some say there is a lot more. That was not always the case. In 1994, Florida black bears were listed as an endangered species after officials discovered that only 300 were left in the state.
Despite support for the hunt, many who attended the meeting on Wednesday argued that the population was still too low to be hunted.