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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida legislator did not use his bear hunt permit

26

October

State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, did not shoot a bear this weekend.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ended the first bear hunt in 21 years early Sunday night after confirming that 295 bears had been killed, just shy of the 320-bear statewide limit. Artiles — one of 3,700 people who bought $100 permits for the hunt — didn’t make it out before then.

“I was going to go out there today, but they shut it down,” he said Monday.

Even though he missed out on the Florida hunt this year, Artiles has killed a bear before. Last year, he hunted black bears in Hyde County, N.C.

This year, FWC officials opened four of the state’s seven bear management areas to the Florida hunt, which started Saturday. By that night, hunters in the Eastern Panhandle area had killed 81 bears, double the quota for the region, and in Central Florida, they had killed 99 of the 100-bear quota. That prompted the state to shut down those regions. The North area and South area, where Artiles planned to hunt, closed Sunday.

The quick pace of the hunt has prompted people to ask questions about why those quotas — intended for a weeklong hunt — were hit so fast. Artiles suspects that it is because the quotas were “very conservative” and the number of bears is much higher than expected.

Keeping the bear population in check in check is important, he says, because it helps ensure the strongest bears survive and that the genetic makeup of the entire species improves.

“I don’t think it’s because of overwhelming interest in it,” Artiles said. “I think it’s because there’s more bears out there than people think.”

Still, Artiles says he thinks the FWC handled the hunt well. With fresher bear population estimates due next year, though, he’s calling for a lottery system to make sure the same few hunters don’t bag all the bears every year.

“I wasn’t able to hunt because the quota was met,” he said, “but to any hunter who says ‘I missed this opportunity,’ there will be further opportunities.”

[Last modified: Monday, October 26, 2015 1:58pm]

    

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