The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced the end of the state’s black bear hunting season on Sunday, according to a press release. Originally scheduled to run for seven days, the hunt, which began on Saturday, netted 295 bears in its first two days—bringing it close to the state’s seasonal quota of 320 bears.
“I don’t think [the speed at which the bears were hunted] surprised any of the hunters,” Ashton Young, a hunter in Tallahassee, Florida, told Outside on Monday. The FWC issued 3,778 permits. Young said that bear overpopulation in his area has become so severe that people living just five miles outside city limits have had to walk their trash to garbage collection trucks to avoid bear interactions.
Black bears, once common in the state, were nearly extinct by the 1970s primarily due to habitat loss. In 2012, the Florida Black Bear Management Plan was implemented, and the bear population grew—currently estimated at around 3,500 animals—and is touted as one of the state’s biggest conservation success stories. There has not been a legal bear hunt in the state since 1994.
This year’s hunt drew national attention. Protests were scheduled around the state, and advocacy group Speak Up Wekiva (SUW) filed suit against the FWC in July to halt the hunt. The suit is ongoing. “It was a tragedy, a scar upon the state,” Chuck O’Neal, director of SUW, told Outside. He said the state’s rapid infrastructure growth continues to pose a threat to the bear population. “There’s no reason why this state can’t sustain a population of 3,500. We don’t need to toss an anchor to a drowning bear in this case.”