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FWC Approves First Statewide Bear Hunt In More Than Two Decades

Topher Forhecz/WGCU

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the first statewide bear hunt in more than two decades Wednesday.

The decision came after a heated meeting with opponents of the hunt who worry the commission is acting hastily.

The hunt will take place in late October and last seven days. By the FWC’s count there are roughly 3,200 bears in the state. The goal of the hunt is kill about 320.

Chairman of the FWC Richard Corbett said the hunt is meant to manage the bear population that has rebounded since almost being wiped out 50 years ago

“We’re taking a look and saying - with some of the incidences that we’ve had - we’re looking into the future and saying we’re going to put our toe in the water to maintain the bear population,” he said.

Credit Topher Forhecz/WGCU
FWC Chairman Richard Corbett speaks with media after vote approving a statewide bear hunt.

The FWC is working on a new statewide survey that should be done around June 2016. The current statewide estimate is based on a mix of 2002 and 2014 numbers.

Alexis Horn of the Sierra Club said the lack of current data doesn’t show the big picture of the entire bear population.

“There are some populations out there that are nonviable. We don’t fully understand the movements between bear management units so how is that affecting population numbers? If you have one bear moving between say Glades [and] Highlands [Counties] into Big Cypress and moves back is that counted as one population or another population or is that counted in both?” she said.

The hunt will occur in about 40 counties.