ST. AUGUSTINE (CBS4)) – The Florida black bear is no longer deemed a endangered species.

The native bear, considered threatened since 1974, was among 16 species removed from the state list Wednesday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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A study found that the bear’s numbers had increased from 500 in the 1950s to more than 2,000 in the early part of this decade.

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Commissioners voted 6-0 to remove the bear from the list, but the change will not take place officially until they come up with a management plan — which could open the door to bear hunting in Florida.

Since 1998, the bear’s image has been featured on the state’s “Conserve Wildlife” specialty license plate, which has generated about $500,000 per year for wildlife commission programs.

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