Florida wildlife officials approve bear hunt harvest quota

320 bears targeted for upcoming hunting season

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Despite throngs of protesters, bear advocates were dealt a crushing defeat Wednesday when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved the killing of 320 bears next month during the state's first bear hunting season in more than 20 years.

"When this many people are speaking out and advocating for the bears, how would it have hurt them to put it off for a year and get better science behind it?" Terri Miller asked.

The decision by FWC comes after a series of bear attacks on people and pets.

"Nobody has done anything to educate the local people, until very recently, that there are ways to avoid human-bear interactions," Miller said.

State wildlife experts said they hope to curb the bear population.

"Calls are up, vehicle strikes are up and they are starting to show up in places they have never shown up before," FWC Bear Management Program Director David Telesco said.

For a week in October, an unlimited number of permitted hunters can kill 320 of the estimated 3,000 bears in Florida. But with 1,900 hunters already with permits, some fear bears will be over-hunted.

"I don't see how it can be prevented," Miller said. "It's not as though the 1,900 people with permits will have instant communication with each other and somebody will know, 'Oh, there went the 320th bear, let's stop.'"

[VIDEO:  Wildlife officials approve killing of 320 bears]

The FWC is also promoting the use of bear-proof trash cans to keep bears away from homes. Bear advocates said that should have been pushed years ago, so hunting didn't have to happen.

Florida black bear.

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