Florida’s first black bear hunt in 21 years is proving to be a big hit, despite a controversial start and at least one lawsuit against the state for holding the hunt. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), more than 1,100 special-use permits have been sold as of Wednesday, with the majority being bought as soon as the agency opened up licenses for sale. Among the first non-resident to sign up for the hunt was none other than rocker Ted Nugent, an avid hunter and advocate for hunting rights.

“The reason there hasn’t been a bear season until now—even after more than 6,000 nuisance complaints—the reason we’ve waited so long is because of the scourge of political correctness dispensed by the idiots who claim the defenseless animals need protecting,” Nugent told The Orlando Sentinel.

The musician, known to fans as the “Motor City Madman,” echoed the complaints of many Florida residents when he pointed out that there was a surplus of bears, and the population is becoming a dangerous liability for the state. Black bears were once a rare sight in Florida, but thanks to the efforts of the FWC and conservationists, the population has rebounded to around 4,000, which is only a conservative estimate. Some experts suspect there are a lot more bears in the state, and the animals seem to be encroaching on human habitats. Data from the FWC show that in 2013, there were 6,667 bear nuisance calls, compared to 100 in 1995.

Biologists say that the problem is not too many bears, but rather too many bears moving from the woods to the suburbs.

“As other states have shown, hunting is the most effective and responsible method for managing the growth of bear populations, but is just one part of FWC’s overall approach to managing bears,” the FWC stated.

Animal rights groups claim that the hunt could have a negative effect on a recovering bear population. The FWC currently intends to reduce the bear population by 20 percent overall. Using hunting as one of the main methods to cull the bears, the agency expects hunters to harvest about 320 of the animals during a limited, seven-day hunt in October. Activists say that with no limit on the number of permits sold, the hunt may go over its harvest quota. A lawsuit by several animal rights organizations has been filed against the FWC in an attempt to halt the hunt, but biologists at the agency say the season has little chance of hurting the bear population in the long run.

“We may end up a few over the objective just because of the timing on any day, and we’ve considered that. But it’s still a very conservative hunt. That’ll be OK,” FWC spokesperson Diane Eggeman told WESH.

Other critics also slammed the season for what they view as catering to trophy hunters. Many hunters, including Nugent, have refuted this claim.

“When we kill a bear in Florida and everywhere, we cherish the meat. It’s the sweetest pork you’ve ever eaten,” he said. “How dare they claim that we don’t utilize every scrap of this precious animal, cherished for the gift that it is. The rugs are magnificent.”

Permits for the hunt cost $100 for residents and $300 for non-residents. The FWC also intends on ramping up programs to educate residents on coexisting with bears, including proper trash disposal.

Image from Larry Philpot on the Wikimedia Commons

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