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Florida bear hunting season gets push back from animal rights groups

Bear population in Florida on the rise

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The bear population in Florida is on the rise and so are incidents with humans, including some attacks. A pending bear hunting season in the state is getting push back from animal rights groups who showed up in the Capital on the same day a bear was caught in a Panhandle neighborhood.

There were more than 6,000 bear nuisance complaints in 2014. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will likely give the bear hunting season final approval at the end of June.

It's set for one week in October with a limit of 200 bears to be hunted total, but animal rights groups said there's no one to monitor that number.

The FWC caught what they call a nuisance bear in Florida's Panhandle Wednesday night.

"This bear broke into two separate porches," said FWC Bear Management Coordinator Dave Telesco.

The bear has been deemed too comfortable with people and a public safety risk. The bad news is that means he has to be euthanized after being sedated with a tranquilizer.

Increased bear-human interactions puts the FWC on the verge of authorizing Florida's first bear hunt in more than 20 years.

"The idea is if we can have the population not grow, we can stabilize it, and then we can keep up with what's going on in the neighborhoods," Telesco said.

"They're ignoring public outcry and catering to trophy hunters," said Holly Parker, of Sierra Club Florida.

But animal rights groups are fighting back. A coalition is calling on the governor to end the proposed hunt.

Reporter Matt Galka asked Laura Bevan, with the Humane Society of the United States, if a hunt would have prevented the bear from the panhandle from coming close to humans.

"No, because that bear is not out in the Apalachicola National Forest or in Tate's Hell or any of those. It is hanging around those neighborhoods," Bevan said.

The two sides agree on one thing: humans can cut down on bear interactions by controlling their garbage and investing in other things like bear-proof trash cans.

The FWC said it catches about 26 bears per year, but they've already caught 50 through six months of 2015 due to increased complaints.