TALLAHASSEE- More data has come out on Florida’s first bear hunt in more than 20 years, as Florida Fish and Wildlife officials call the hunt a major success.
The bear hunt was supposed to last a week with a target goal of 320 bears harvested, but the hunt was capped in just two days after 304 bears were taken down. In Southwest Florida, 16 bears were killed in Collier County, while six were shot in Hendry County.
“The reason we say it was successful is because the goal of the hunt was to begin to stabilize bear populations at their current levels,” said Dr. Thomas Eason with FWC.
A majority of the bears killed, 59 percent, were female. Seventy-eight percent of the 304 bears harvested were done so on private land.
Laura Bevan with the Humane Society says that points to one thing, “I believe there was a lot of baiting going on, that’s when people put out food to draw animals in then they shoot them. And under the rules, they could shoot them within one hundred yards of the bait anyway.”
But the FWC says baiting cases were minimal.
“We had one citation that was issued for an individual attempting to take bear over bait in Volusia County,” said Maj. Craig Duval with FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement.
The numbers do little to settle down animal rights activists who have been crying foul over the hunt since the beginning.
“This slaughter, because I refuse to call it a hunt now, was incredibly mismanaged,” said Bevan.
Officials say it’s still too early to tell if there will be another hunt next year. The FWC says they’re currently doing a hunter survey along with analyzing the data in order to come to a final decision.
The largest bears killed were 547 pounds in Volusia County and 524 pounds in Collier County. There was a 487 pound bear taken down in the Panhandle’s Franklin County.