New Proposed Rules for Bear Hunts in Florida

By Dana Kobilinsky

Bear A black bear at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. In Florida, officials with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have set forth new proposed rules for limited bear hunting in the state.
Image Credit: USFWS

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently developed rules for Florida’s first bear hunt if the proposal for limited bear hunting, which was approved last month, is passed.

Florida’s black bears (Ursus americanus floridanus) are thriving, and that’s led to an increase in human-bear conflicts over the past few years. The limited hunt, which will begin Oct. 24 if approved next month, is one way FWC plans to manage these populations. And after two black bears weighing over 400 pounds were killed this month in two separate vehicle collisions in Alachua County, the commission appears to have expedited that process by establishing hunting rules.

However, some believe the decision to have bear hunts is too premature. The Humane Society reached out to Florida Gov. Rick Scott to stop the pending hunt because the commission hasn’t completed a bear population count in the state. But the FWC says the black bear population is, in fact, increasing.

“We are conducting a new population estimate at this time and will have some results back this fall and the rest of next fall,” said Sarah Barrett, a scientist with FWC’s Florida Black Bear Management Program. “All indicators indicate the numbers of bears statewide have increased.”

Opponents of the management strategy argue Florida should relocate the bears and make more of an effort in reducing bear attractants including food and trash. While FWC also advocates for these strategies, it plans to go along with the final vote on hunting.

Under the proposed rules, the hunt would cost $100 for those who live in Florida and $300 for non-Floridians. Depending on how many people will pay to hunt, the price for Florida residents might be dropped to $50. Further, each hunter will get to hunt one bear per hunt and must have the bear registered and tagged within four hours. Hunters also would be prohibited from killing bears within 100 yards of active-game feeding stations.

The hunt is expected to last two to six days depending on when quotas are reached. The four regions where hunting would potentially be approved are the eastern Panhandle, Northeast Florida, East-Central Florida and South Florida. Quota numbers will be ready for commission approval in September, according to Diane Eggeman, the director of the commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management.

FWC is expected to have a final vote the week of June 22 in Sarasota where there will be a final verdict in the limited bear hunt saga.

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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