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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided that the Florida black bear will be removed from the state’s list of threatened species. The black bear had been listed as threatened since1974, when its population barely grazed 300.
The issue was handled Wednesday at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens. Several environmentalists have disagreed with the plan, believing the bear isn’t ready to be removed from the list just yet, according to the Miami Herald. FWC biologist’s say the bear population has grown to a healthy range of more than 3,000.
The FWC will establish a 10-year plan that will take effect in August. The plan will serve to safeguard isolated bear populations from areas such as Big Cypress National Preserve to the western Panhandle, according to the Herald.
According to the draft for the black bear management plan, one of its objectives is to “help Florida citizens have a better understanding of bears, support bear conservation measures, and contribute to reducing human-bear conflicts.” The FWC plans to achieve this through education and outreach programs.
A new rule was proposed to make it unlawful to hurt or kill a bear and the penalty has been reduced from felony to misdemeanor, according to the draft.
The FWC does not anticipate that the change of penalty will have a negative impact on the illegal take of bears.