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Environment

Bear Hunting May be Legal Soon in Florida

Bear hunting will soon be legal in Florida after state wildlife regulators approved the idea at a meeting in Jacksonville Wednesday.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners listened to a staff presentation that included hunting as a way to manage the black bear population and reduce the number of human-bear encounters. “Bear hunting can be one tool, one part of a comprehensive approach that helps with bear conflict but we are not proposing hunting as a means to solve conflicts particularly in suburban areas where staff is not thinking we’re going to have hunters out in suburban neighborhoods where these conflicts are occurring”, said Dr. Thomas Eason Director, Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.

The commission is also considering letting property owners use non-lethal means to scare away bears, including paintball guns and slingshots. Property owners could also apply for permission to permanently remove bears when other, non-lethal methods fail. The idea of killing bears because they wander into populated areas looking for food and then refuse to leave infuriates Apopka, Florida resident Velva Peterson.

“Why does the bear have to die", Peterson asked. "We have destroyed so much of their habitat, they’re forced to go someplace else. Where can they go? People are the problem. We just continue to do what we feel like doing and the bear has to suffer.”

There have been four serious bear attacks in Florida in the past 13 months. And this past September, a 300-pound black bear was removed from a fenced in enclosure outside a Jacksonville Beach condominium and relocated to a wooded area near Starke. The bear was later euthanized after turning up in Green Cove Springs.

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