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GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami/AP) — For the first time in 20 years, hunters on Saturday will be given the opportunity to stalk the Florida wilderness and legally kill black bears.
More than 3,200 permits were sold after the hunt was approved by a wildlife commission earlier this year.
Officials say the growing black bear numbers have posed a safety issue for residents, as encounters with humans is also on the rise.
A target number of 320 bears have been set to be “harvested” in four different regions where populations are the densest. That represents about 10 percent of the bear population in the state.
The season ends after one week, or as soon as the 320 kill limit is reached.
33 stations have been set up in the designated hunting regions with strict rules set for hunters. Each kill must be recorded within 12 hours at one of these stations. Dogs or bait to lure the bears are not allowed. Bears smaller than 100 lbs. are off-limits, as well as bears seen with cubs. Only shotguns, pistols, revolvers, bows and crossbows are permitted. Violations could result in fines that range from $50 to $500 and 60 days in prison.
Activists have been fighting to stop the hunt since it was announced, including filing suit against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Many have maintained that the state should instead focus on things like trash management and implementing bear-resistant garbage cans, as the smell of food is the biggest reason bears are attracted to neighborhoods.
32 other states have a bear hunting season.
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