Florida bear hunt ends after day 2, wildlife officials announce

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Florida bear hunt: Authorities accused of facilitating ‘trophy hunts’ as hundreds of bears are killed.

Florida wildlife officials say they’ve ended a statewide bear hunt after its second day after a higher than expected number of bears were killed, nearing the official cap of 320 overall. For Paul Fitzgerald, a high school student and hunting enthusiast, the past weekend’s shooting spree was the fulfilment of a dream. “I was born into it, so it just came natural,” the 16-year-old said after shooting dead an 80kg black bear. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a statement online Sunday evening reporting 295 bears killed in two days of hunting, adding “The 2015 bear hunt is officially over.” It says two regions closed to hunting after Saturday’s first day and two more regions that allowed hunting were closed late Sunday. Florida’s hunters killed so many bears over the weekend that state wildlife officials shut down the hunt on Sunday night, ending what was envisioned as a week-long season after only two days. Although the hunt drew strong opposition from the public, both in letters and e-mails to the commission and on social media, Wiley said he considered it to be a success.

There are about 3000 bears roaming the woods of Florida, and the state issued a total of 3,778 bear hunting permits as part of a plan to control black bear attacks on residents and their pets. Mr Palmer climbed down and shot the 140kg bear once more. “They [protesters] can’t rule what everybody else wants,” he told The Orlando Sentinel. “The protesters, in my opinion, are the vast minority of people. The commission had set quotas for each of four areas where hunting was allowed, and Wiley shut down two of them at the end of the first day of the hunt because they exceeded their limit of dead bears.

They probably wouldn’t even want to go out in the woods, you know?” Among the first bears killed was a lactating female. “Now there are one or two babies alone so she [the hunter] can have a trophy on her wall,” said Astevia Willett, 53, who was monitoring the hunt. Updated figures presented in a Sunday afternoon conference call showed the hunters killed even more bears than the official record reflected on Saturday.

The state’s largest native land mammal, Florida’s black bear was considered endangered and protected by the state until 2012, but the population has grown from a few hundred in the 1970s to some 3,500 today. No hunting of the bears had been allowed since 1994. “There has been a need to make [hunting] seasons longer, make them more liberal, because there have been so many predators and they’re not as controlled as they should be,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president of the Sportsmen’s Alliance, a hunters’ organisation. As the Florida suburbs sprawl ever further into their traditional habitats, bears and other large predators have come into more frequent contact with humans. The FWC said the hunt was not related to the bear-on-human attacks, yet animal rights campaigners say the state should be focused not on killing bears, but on better management of the waste that draws them to populated areas.

The state would be better off helping citizens manage trash and outdoor food sources.” An 11th-hour legal bid to halt the bear hunt was blocked by an appeals court late on 23 October. Hunters were told they could not use bait to attract bears, and could not use dogs to track the bears and chase them into the trees to be shot – a practice permitted in some other states. Duval also said his agency has opened several more investigations of possible hunting violations but said he could not give details until the investigations are completed. But Eason said his agency’s research has shown that the cubs, which are born in February, are able to fend for themselves by the time they’re nine months old.

Some won’t make it, he conceded, but he predicted it would be in line with the number of orphaned cubs that were failing to thrive without any bear hunt.

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