The hunt is on.
Despite months of protests and a lawsuit filed to stop it, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners on Wednesday took the final step in paving the way for an October bear hunt. Hunters will be allowed to kill up to 320 animals in bear country in four parts of the state.
The hunt will be the first in more than 20 years and narrowly passed after Commissioners Ron Bergeron and Robert Spottswood, who was appointed just this month, objected to hunt rules.
“You’re talking about an animal that’s an icon in this state,” Bergeron said at a field hearing that filled a Fort Lauderdale hotel ballroom with hunters in boots and conservationists waiving signs and carrying an oversized stuffed teddy bear.
First approved in April, the hunt has already drawn more than 1,900 hunters who have purchased an unlimited number of permits. Hunters will have at least two days starting Oct. 24 to kill bears in four populated areas in the Southwest Florida, North and Central Florida and the Panhandle. The hunt will be called off once the 320 quota is reached.