Florida ends bear hunt early due to higher-than-expected number of kills

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Florida ends bear hunt early due to higher-than-expected number of kills.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Florida’s controversial black bear hunt ended after its second day after a higher than expected number of bears had been killed with 295 bears taken overall, nearing the official limit, Florida wildlife authorities said late Sunday. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted a statement on its agency website announcing that it had closed the 2015 hunt, saying the decision was taken as the hunt was approaching an agency “objective” of 320 bears overall. 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.

The statement late 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. 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.

Earlier Sunday, the agency’s executive director, Nick Wiley, told The Associated Press that the agency closely monitors the numbers of bears taken and was already leaning toward ending the hunt after two days. 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.

Updated figures presented in a Sunday afternoon conference call showed the hunters killed even more bears than the official record reflected on Saturday. 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 Sunday to hunting. “From a biological sustainable population perspective, none of these numbers are worrisome to us, we have large growing bear populations,” said FWC’s Thomas Eason, speaking Sunday before the overall hunt had ended. Activists have argued that the state should instead focus through other means on curbing nuisance bears and assuring safety through trash management and other means. Wiley predicted the final statewide total for all the bears killed in the two-day hunt will likely climb higher than 295 on Monday for that same reason.

Officials set up 33 stations where hunters were required to record each kill within 12 hours, with some of the last stations to remain open until noon Monday. 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. Hunting opponents have objected to allowing those bears to be shot, warning that that will leave orphaned cubs that are likely to die, thus making one bear death into two or three. 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.

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