Originally set to last one week, Florida’s first bear hunt in 21 years is over after just two days.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first approved an October hunt in an attempt to stabilize expanding bear populations.
FWC believes hunting was the most effective and responsible means to managing the size of bear populations.
With a goal of 320 bears set, the agency decided to end the hunt early once the harvest number reached 295.
It became apparent that some state regions experienced far greater bear harvest totals than FWC estimated, while other regions had far less.
According to the commission’s 2015 Guide to Bear Hunting in Florida, the following numbers were expected:
East Panhandle: 40 bears
North: 100 bears
Central: 100 bears
South: 80 bears
The Panhandle and Central regions noticed a significantly higher yield, while North and South did not even reach half the proposed target.
The following are the final totals:
East Panhandle: 112 bears
North: 23 bears
Central: 139 bears
South: 21 bears
FWC attributes the higher numbers in the East and Central, to the likelihood of larger bear populations in those regions, according to a news release.
The commission said it believes the 2016 survey will show significantly higher bear populations in the East Panhandle; the 2002 estimate was 600 bears for the region.
Bears that were killed late Sunday night will be able to visit a check station until noon on Monday.
One hunter has reportedly been cited for killing a cub.
The local advocacy group Speak Up Wekiva had previously sued FWC, pushing for an emergency stop of the state’s bear hunt, but a judge decided to let it go forward. The group blames FWC for targeting too many bears after the excessive hunting of bears in the 1990’s.