As Sky News reports, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has given final approval to a black bear hunting season scheduled to take place in October. The commission approved a rule change that allows an unlimited number of hunters to participate, finalizing the measure. It is the state’s first bear season in 21 years, passing amid outcries by environmentalists and animal activists.
The season will begin Oct. 24 and will run between two to seven days depending on which part of the state a hunter is in. Permits will be available to residents for $100 and non-residents for $300, with one bear allowed to be taken per hunter.
The state is divided into four black bear regions: the eastern Panhandle, Northeast Florida, South Florida, and east-central Florida. Hunting will cease in each area when the region’s quota is reached, according to Sky News, though no word was given on the specific numbers for each region.
The measure passed with only one of the six commissioners, Commissioner Ron Bergeron, voting against the proposal. Bergeron said he was an avid hunter but disagreed with the scope of the hunt, according to NorthEscambia.com. He fears hunting will not be sustainable and would like to see more data collected about bear numbers.
Black bears were taken off the state’s threatened species list in 2012 and have been growing in numbers since 2002. Estimates put the current population at 3,150 statewide. Officials expect roughly 320 bears will be killed during the hunting season.
The rise in bear numbers has led to frequent encounters with humans, which ultimately led officials to pass the hunting measures. Four bear attacks have occurred since 2012, including a woman walking her dogs in 2013.
Those opposed to the hunt, including Laura Bevan, eastern director of the Humane Society of the United States, claim bear-proof garbage cans would prevent more encounters than the hunt will. The hunt will proceed despite protests and demonstrations, as Sky News reported Florida Governor Rick Scott saying he would not overturn a pro-hunt vote.
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Cover photo: Thinkstock/Dennis Donohue