Bear hunt ends in Florida after 295 bears killed

FWC says 2015 bear hunt officially over

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the statewide bear harvest standing at 295 bears at the end of the second day of Florida's bear hunt, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it closed the North and South bear management units to hunting Sunday.

[RELATED: Bear hunt halted in Central Florida]

The East Panhandle and Central BMUs met their harvest objectives and closed to bear hunting Saturday.

FWC said the 2015 bear hunt is officially over in all four of the state's seven BMUs that offered bear hunting.

While hunter success was higher than expected in the East Panhandle and Central BMUs, success rates were comparable to other states with similar hunt structures and were within sustainable limits, according to FWC.

The higher-than-expected harvest in the East Panhandle may reflect a higher bear population in that unit. FWC said it expects the 2016 survey to show populations to be significantly higher than the East Panhandle's 2002 population estimate of 600 bears.

Bear Management Unit Harvest Totals, according to FWC:

  • East Panhandle BMU = 112 bears
  • Central BMU = 139 bears
  • North BMU = 23 bears
  • South BMU = 21 bears

While North and South BMUs are closed to bear hunting effective immediately, check stations within those BMUs will stay open through noon Monday. Whether taken on private or public land, FWC said hunters must check their bear within 12 hours of recovering it at any of the established bear check stations in the North and South BMUs.

People for the bear hunt said it's a way to control the population. Others said there has to be another way.

"I think it was way overdue. We should of done it years ago," said taxidermist Jef Whitlock, of Bucks and Boars.

Whitlock said he's got four bears ready to stuff from this weekend's hunt. FWC counted 295 bears killed during the state's first hunting season. He said it was needed, that the bears taken down aren't the small fuzzy bear that need protecting.

"Until you have your 14-year-old son petrified by one because he wants to climb up in the tree with him, they have no clue," Whitlock said.

Chuck O'neal said he tried to stop the hunt with "Speak up Wachiva," that the numbers over the weekend were a slaughter. O'neal said the FWC promised about 36 bears a day would be killed and on Saturday aline 207 bears were taken down.

"Our figures from our monitors show that about a third of all the kills were lactating females, that are leaving behind cubs, it's tragic," said O'neal.

O'neal claims there's no proof that bear hunts stop bear attacks.

"There is no scientific evidence that says that a hunt of this size of this type has any impact what so ever on bear human conflicts," O'neal said.

"In all honesty, yes we have too many in different areas and they need to let us take care of it," Whitlock said.