ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida would allow hunters to kill up to a total of 320 bears in October during the state’s first bear hunt season in 20 years, according to a recommendation from the state's wildlife agency presented at a public hearing on Wednesday.
The bear hunt was approved in June by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission over strenuous opposition from animal rights and conservation groups.
About 50 people signed up to speak to the commission about the quota at a public hearing which began late in the afternoon in Fort Lauderdale prior to a vote.
The hunt is scheduled from Oct. 24 through 30, although it will be stopped if the quota is reached early.
The commission initially suggested the hunt would help reduce bear-human conflicts in parts of the state where subdivisions have been built in traditional bear habitat.
Four people have been seriously injured by bears in the past two years, according to the state’s bear expert Thomas Eason.
Eason said studies show those conflicts could virtually end if residents did a better job of containing the garbage and food waste which draws bears into the neighborhoods.
Eason said the agency is encouraging municipalities to require people who live in bear territory to use bear-proof garbage cans.
The hunt rules allow firearms and bows to be used, but no unleashed dogs or bait. The bag limit is one bear per hunter.
(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Lambert)