Final Bear Population Estimate In Florida: 4,030
Florida wildlife authorities say the state's bear population is growing at 4,030.
They say that is the final estimate after a count in 2014 and 2015. The Florida black bear was removed from the state's threatened list in 2012.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the state's bear population has grown by 48 percent since the last count in the early 2000s.
But Chuck O'Neal of Speak Up Wekiva says the estimate is high. His organization led a failed legal effort last year to stop the state's first bear hunt in two decades. He worries about the animal’s habitat.
"The problem is the area over which they extrapolated is not dense forest. It's been manipulated by the U.S. Forest Service and Florida Forest Service for longleaf pine restoration, which destroys not only oak trees that produce acorns but also the saw palmettos that produce saw palmetto berries."
Eric Sutton, assistant executive director of Florida Fish and Wildlife, says the estimate is scientifically sound.
"FWC's focus remains responsibly balancing the needs of black bears with the safety and well-being of Florida's families and communities."
The state agency voted against holding another bear hunt this year.