Sunday, 1 November 2015

Florida ends black bear hunt after two days with 295 animals dead

Wildlife authorities say hunt had neared official objective of 320 bears
More than 3,200 hunters had bought licenses to participate

Associated Press in Fort Lauderdale
Monday 26 October 2015 12.50 GMT

After just two days, Florida ended its controversial black bear hunt because a higher than expected number of bears had been killed. Wildlife authorities said late on Sunday that 295 bears were taken overall, nearing the official limit.

The Florida fish and wildlife conservation commission (FWC) posted a statement on its website saying it had closed the 2015 hunt because it was approaching an agency “objective” of 320 bears overall.

“The 2015 bear hunt is officially over,” the statement said.

Wildlife officials had already shut down hunting in designated central and east Panhandle regions of Florida after the first day, Saturday.

They said 112 bears were killed in the Panhandle region at last count, nearly triple the 40 kill limit for that area. In the central region, 139 bears were killed, it said. The agency’s statement added that 23 bears were taken in the north unit at last count and 21 bears in the south unit before those final two areas were closed on Sunday to hunting.

“From a biological sustainable population perspective, none of these numbers are worrisome to us. We have large growing bear populations,” said the FWC’s Thomas Eason, speaking on Sunday before the overall hunt had ended.

The statement late on Sunday said additional north and south units were closed to hunting after the second day, meaning hunting had ended in all four “bear management units” were it was allowed.

Authorities said they were not alarmed by the numbers, saying the figures suggested the bear population was higher than they thought. The hunt was approved earlier this year after considerable and contentious debate. Backers estimated Florida’s black bear population had grown to 3,500 – from a few hundred in the 1970s. But opponents challenged those numbers.

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