Florida’s first bear hunt in more than 40 years is to take place in a bid to control the burgeoning population of the animals.
The state’s Wildlife Conservation Commission is to grant licences to hunters to kill a total of 320 black bears in the wild. The latest statewide hunt took place in 1972.
But the cull, which has already seen some 200 bears being killed in the first day of the hunt on Saturday, has been met by angry protests from animals rights activists.
Kate MacFall from the Humane Society of the United States, said: “Research overwhelmingly shows that hunting bears in the woods doesn’t reduce problems with bears in neighbourhoods. The state would be better off helping citizens manage trash and outdoor food sources.”
The black bear population in the state is thought to have grown to 3,500 – up from a few hundred in the 1970s.
A number of people have been injured by bears in recent years, the majority in the suburbs of Orlando.
Last Friday, a bear attacked a man near the town of Eastpoint, leaving him with non-life threatening injuries.
“There has been a need to make seasons longer, make them more liberal, because there have been so many predators and they’re not as controlled as they should be,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and chief executive officer of the Sportsmen’s Alliance.
Among the hunters who killed a bear was 16-year-old Paul Fitzgerald. The schoolboy told local newspaper the Orlando Sentinel that he had fulfilled a dream when he killed a 175lb bear in Lake County.
“I got lucky,” he said. “I was born into it, so it just came natural.”