At the end of the hunt’s second day, the number of bears killed was close to the “statewide objective” of 320, according to a commission news release that said this year’s hunt was “officially over.”
Officials later put the two-day tally at 298.
“We have bears that haven’t been hunted in 21-plus years here in Florida so they’re relatively naive,” Thomas Eason, director of FWC’s division of habitat and species conservation, told the Sentinel. “I also think we had a lot of hunters who went out and did a lot of scouting and were ready.”
Officials had already closed two hunting regions in the state after the first day, in which 207 bears were reported killed. A release on the first day’s total called that figure “well within the allowable range of a conservative hunt.”
The hunt, which could have lasted seven days, was approved earlier this year as a way to help control Florida’s bear population. More than 3,700 bear permits had been sold in the state between Aug. 3 and Friday, according to a FWC release.
“We are heavily into what we are calling a conflict management phase, where we have bears that are no longer on the brink of extinction,” Eason told the Tallahassee Democrat. “There are more bears in more places and more people in more places and more interaction and were coming to grips with what does that mean.”
But many opposed the decision, and spoke out against it. For example, the Florida Times-Union described a June meeting, which was attended by more than 50 people. Maria Bolton-Joubert, Sierra Club of Central Florida programs chairwoman, told the paper that the state should look for solutions that wouldn’t involve killing the bears, like trash cans that are bear-resistant.
“We do not see this hunt resolving the human-bear conflict issues at this time,” she told the newspaper. “We see this as impacting the bear population further.”