Wildlife commission sets sights on another bear hunt

- The growing black bear populations across the state of Florida has Wildlife Commissioners considering another bear hunt this year.

Animal advocates, however, are not happy about the proposal and are speaking out.

Florida's seven-day bear hunt in October of 2015 was called off after just 48 hours, when the bear death count reached 304. More than 30 of the bears killed were lactating mothers.

"If you continue down that path, you're ultimately going to have no bears, except in zoos," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The organization is behind a petition submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services requesting that Florida black bears be added to the federal list of endangered species. The request, submitted on March 17, comes as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) released a new study showing there are 4,350 adult bears in Florida. The population size has increased 60-percent since the last bear count in 2002, according to FWC officials.

"Historically, Florida sustained 11,000 bears, so is the problem really that there are too many bears or just not enough space for these bears?" questioned Lopez.

Animal advocates hope the state and federal government will take a closer look at the human population, rather than the bear population, to see how urban development is taking over the black bear habitat.

"The hunt is not going to address our bear, so called, problems," said Lopez. "Our problem is an urban growth problem. Our problem is that we're not managing Florida for all of these species."

The federal government has 12 months to review the petition. The FWC will decide if the bear hunt will continue this year, and set a quota, at its meeting in June.
 

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