Wildlife officials: Florida bears abundant, totaling 4,350

Wildlife officials in Florida say they haven’t made a decision about whether to continue allowing the hunting of black bears, but new numbers show the animals are abundant statewide.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Thursday that the adult population is estimated at 4,350. The data was collected before a bear hunt in October — the state’s first in more than 20 years. Game officials ended the harvest early when limits in some hunting areas were quickly exceeded.

The state said bear numbers in those areas were probably larger than previously thought. However, some animal advocates want federal protections for Florida’s bears, saying the hunt, urban sprawl and collisions with vehicles threaten the bears’ long-term survival.

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