Protests planned as bear hunting season gets underway

black bear
File photo

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) — At least a dozen protests are planned across the state on Friday to discourage bear hunting. For the first time in more than two decades bear hunting will be legal in Florida starting Saturday.

2,800 Floridians, including 413 in Tampa Bay, have applied for the hunting license this year. The season lasts one week or until 320 bears are dead. That’s a little less than one-tenth of the state’s bear population.

Protesters never wanted the bear hunt to get by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the first place. The vote came during a meeting in June that attracted a standing-room only crowd.

The hunt is scheduled for October 24 through 30. Hunters will only be allowed to kill one bear per season and the bear must be a minimum of 100 lbs. During the hunt, no cubs can be present. If a certain number of bears are killed, the season could end early.

Related: 2015 Florida bear hunting rules and regulations

Protesters worry the bears will be like sitting ducks, because they haven’t been hunted in so long. FWC wants to control the population, citing several bear attacks in the states. On Friday, protesters will gather in St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and other Florida cities.

The Humane Society expressed its disapproval of the upcoming hunt in a statement:

“This is a sad day for Florida’s black bears. This weekend, trophy hunters will take to the woods to kill our bears for rugs and taxidermied trophies. This hunt is completely unnecessary and it’s not supported by science or by public sentiment. Research overwhelmingly shows that hunting bears in the woods doesn’t reduce problems with bears in neighborhoods. The state would be better off helping citizens manage trash and outdoor food sources. Unfortunately for bears, most of Florida’s wildlife commissioners failed to listen to the overwhelming majority of Floridians who publicly opposed the hunt,” said Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

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