Florida has sold 1,300 bear hunting licensees and counting for the upcoming season. But with a statewide limit of 320, most sportsmen will go home empty-handed.
When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission signed off the state's first bear hunt in 21 years, it set no limits on the amount of licenses that could be sold. Since the licenses went on sale on August 3, Florida has sold at least 1,340. Hunters will be allowed to purchase licensees until October 23.
The one-week bear hunting season will begin on October 24, and hunters will be limited to one bear each. The numbers of bear killed will be capped at 320, meaning the majority of the hunters shelling out $100 for licenses won't bag a trophy.
Even with so many hunters in the field, the state wildlife agency has warned that success rate for bear hunting are low, especially with bans on using dogs or bait.
The bear hunt has courted controversy in Florida since it was first proposed. Supporters of the hunt say it's needed to control a bear population which threatens Florida residents. Following a series of highly-publicized bear attacks on women last year, some hunters and wildlife management experts have called for the species to be culled to reduce run-ins with people.
Animal activists opposed to the hunt have wanted to delay voting on it until a survey of the bear population is completed next year. But only one commissioner has voted to delay the hunt, and none have outright opposed it.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, conservationists originally opposed to the bear hunting season says the booming license sales suggest the agency is more focused on revenue than wildlife management.
"Is this a fundraising opportunity or a plan based on science?" said Christopher Byrd, an attorney representing Speak up Wekiva, a conservation group.
Speak Up Wekiva has filed a lawsuit against the wildlife commission, seeking to postpone or prevent the upcoming bear hunt. The plaintiffs contend that the commissions' decision to allow the hunt failed to show scientific evidence that the hunt will reduce conflict between bears and humans or that it will not harm the overall bear population.