Florida's Bear Hunt Can Begin October 24, Judge Rules

Yesterday in Tallahassee, a judge ruled that a weeklong hunt of Florida's black bears, scheduled to begin October 24, can proceed. 

The hunt was authorized by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this summer. In the past year or so, four women in Central and North Florida were attacked by bears. The FWC has insisted that the reason for the hunt is not to stop bear attacks but to "harvest" the bears and keep them at a manageable number. 

Environmentalists have been angered at the plan, which is a reversal of course from a 2012 bear management plan that was supposed to be in effect for ten years and called for sustaining bear populations. Bears were listed as threatened from 1974 until 2012. Their populations rebounded since then, from just a few hundred to an estimated 3,000. 

A lawsuit was filed by a Central Florida man named Chuck O'Neal and a group called Speak Up Wekiva. The suit alleges that the FWC is not following its constitutional mandate to protect wildlife. As part of the suit, the plaintiffs asked that the hunt be stopped, at least until more data can be obtained. (Currently the FWC is relying on data from 2002 bear counts, though a fresh count is underway and would be more complete next year.) The hunt will allow 320 bears to be killed. About 2,500 people have already applied for bear hunting permits. 

Leon County Judge George Reynolds yesterday heard testimony from both sides and decided to allow the hunt to proceed. 

Twitter shows that people are upset about the hunt, but bears continue chillin' in Central Florida neighborhoods: 

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Deirdra Funcheon