Florida Black Bear Hunt Underway, Despite Protests

Photo: De Agostini / C. Dani & I. Jeske/Rex/REX USA
Despite protests from animal welfare activists, Florida's bear-hunting tradition was revived on Saturday for the first time since 1972. Along with bear-proofing public trash cans and rules against feeding bears, the hunting season was announced to curb dangerous human-bear run-ins, NPR reported in February, when the hunt was first publicized.

In addition to having to purchase a permit and have any kills inspected within 12 hours of shooting a bear, Florida hunters were also told to expect protesters — and cautioned hunters to maintain civility.

"All eyes in Florida and beyond will be on you," warned an Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) email sent to bear-hunting permit holders.

The Orlando Sentinal reports the FWC had sold 3,543 bear-hunting permits by Friday afternoon, which translates to more than one hunter for each of the estimated 3,500 wild bears within the state's borders. That doesn't mean those 3,500 animals will be wiped out, though. The FWC established a quota of 320 bears and says it will end the hunting season early if the quota is met faster than expected.

In fact, the FWC has already shut down hunting in the East Panhandle and Central Florida regions after 207 bears were killed on Saturday alone.

While the state's bear population has rebounded in recent years, animal welfare activists and organizations, including the Humane Society, oppose the hunt, as they worry it will erode wildlife conservation progress.

"Research overwhelmingly shows that hunting bears in the woods doesn’t reduce problems with bears in neighborhoods," Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The Humane Society said in a statement. "The state would be better off helping citizens manage trash and outdoor food sources. Unfortunately for bears, most of Florida’s wildlife commissioners failed to listen to the overwhelming majority of Floridians who publicly opposed the hunt."

Some protestors have even directly threatened the bear hunters, likening them to Walter Palmer, the now-infamous dentist who trophy-hunted Zimbabwe's Cecil the Lion in early July. A local organization called Speak Up Wekiva unsuccessfully sued to stop the hunt on the grounds that the state's bear population remains at risk of extinction. The group particularly opposes the FWC allowing female bears to be hunted, which could potentially orphan cubs.

More from US News

"Wrong." "That makes me smart." "Why Not?" "Ugh." No, those aren't snippets of a conversation with a cranky 5-year-old. They're just a few of the ...
When Donald Trump attacked her suitabilty for office during Monday's debate, Hillary Clinton was ready with the comeback of the evening. Towards...
People are already having feelings about the presidential debate — and no one’s even had time to finish their wine yet. Twitter was gearing up for the ...
If the chaotic party politics of the 2016 election have left you feeling completely birdbrained, this video is for you. The Founding Fathers (presented ...
Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: Hillary Clinton from Funny Or Die Update: Hillary Clinton's appearance on Between Two Ferns may have smashed ...
We're just hours away from the first presidential debate of the 2016 election. The 90-minute showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is ...
Election Day lasts just one day — a 24-hour culmination of the seemingly never-ending campaign season. But we’ll spend the next two, four, six years ...
We share the 12 questions we want to hear moderator Lester Holt ask Clinton and Trump tonight
Step aside, old-school political merch. We're way past bumper stickers and buttons. With the election just months away, people across the country are ...
1. Here At Home: Police arrested a suspect in connection with a shooting at a Washington state mall that left five people dead. The shooting took place...
When thinking about the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opening this weekend, the first thing that comes ...
On Saturday, police arrested a 20-year-old suspect in connection with a shooting at a Washington state mall that left five people dead, reports The ...
The 2016 presidential election has been a captivating contest. If you feel like sometimes you can't look away, well, you're not alone. Even celebrities ...
Update: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney announced in a press conference that dashcam and body cam video of the department's interaction with...