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Proposed Bear Hunt Moves Ahead

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Florida hunters are a step closer to being able to hunt bears.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has approved a plan for a week-long hunting season.

It will be the first time in more than 20 years that black bears can be hunted in Florida.

The goal is to curb the number of bear-human interactions and bear attacks.

Commission chair Dick Corbett said one of the best way to do that is for people to stop feeding the bears.

“You’ve got a number of citizens that believe that bears are pets, and putting out dog food, opening garbage cans and trying to attract bears, because they think they’re teddy bears,” said Corbett.

“Frankly we all know that that’s not the case. This is not Disney World,” he said.

The commission will take a final vote on the bear hunt proposal in June. If approved, it would take place in October.

Hunters would be limited to one bear per hunter, a minimum size of one-hundred pounds, and not shooting a bear if cubs are nearby.

FWC is aiming to reduce the population by 275 bears.

Hunters are applauding the move

Chuck Echenique represents commercial hunters on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission’s black bear technical advisory group.

He said there’s a lot of interest in a bear hunt.

“And there are definitely going to be people from out of state who want to come to Florida to harvest a bear, so I’ve been fielding phone calls for months on this,” said Echenique.

“And it will continue, I think, to grow in popularity,” he said.

Echenique said he understands why some people are opposed to the hunt because they don’t think the bears should be killed. But he said, it will help control the bear population.

Ben Benedict lives in Heathrow, not far from where a bear attacked a woman. He said his neighbors are so afraid of bears no one took their kids trick-or-treating on Halloween.

"I understand protecting species, and unfortunately we kind of came in on their territory," said Benedict.

"It's kind of overcrowding now, the more they're building in this area. But I think to protect people and their families I'm not opposed to it."

But some Central Floridians don't think bears should be hunted. They blame humans for causing the four bear attacks that have been reported since December of 2013.

Ray Baley sees bears all the time on his six-acre property in Apopka, near Wekiwa Springs State Park. He said new development is encroaching on their habitat.

"I mean where are they going to go? I can see possibly relocating some of them, but to hunt them and kill them really upsets me," he said.