The fall of 2015 marked the first bear hunt in the state of Florida in 21 years and recorded a total of 306 kills before closing the proposed week-long season after only two days of hunting. Despite the number of kills during the hunt, state wildlife officials unveiled a study stating the state’s bear populations were still on the rise.
The study released on Thursday found 4,350 bears in the state of Florida, a number that marks about a 60 percent increase in population from a similar study performed 14 years ago.
“The good news is that bears are abundant in Florida,” Thomas Eason, top bear expert at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in a press call this week.
Eason did however, provide one important caveat: the new population estimate is based on figures from before the fall’s bear hunt, which was designs to “slow the growth” of the bear population in Florida.
Wildlife biologists utilized hair snare corrals, luring bears using bait and retrieving stands of fur that became snared or entangled in barbed wire around the baiting station. In total 15,000 hair samples were tested to aid in identifying the new population estimate.
In the 1970’s, the state’s bear population sat somewhere around the 300 mark and lead to the ban of hunting the animals in most counties in Florida. In 1994, the hunting of bears was banned across the state due to low population numbers.
One of the biggest drivers on returning the bear hunt to Florida came after a number of human-related incidents after four people were attacked across the state.
Officials have not yet made a decision as to whether or not there will be another bear hunting season recommended again this year. The wildlife commission stated they had been waiting patiently on the population data from this study before beginning that conversation.