A black bear perches on a tree in Panama City, Florida. Photo: Andrew Wardlow / News Herald / AP Photo

By Stephen Hudak
10 August 2015

(Orlando Sentinel) – Two words used by animal-rights advocates to condemn Florida's first bear hunt in 21 years are sparking concern among hundreds of people who hope to kill a bear in October.

"Trophy hunt."

It's the same incriminating phrase used in social-media posts to condemn the illegal killing of one of Zimbabwe's best-known and most-studied big cats, a lion named Cecil lured from a national park with bait and killed by an American on safari.

More than 1,430 people signed up last week to hunt Florida black bears.

Some sportsmen say they welcome the challenge to pursue the state's largest native land mammal, which has been off limits to Florida's hunters since 1994.

But others, wary of the anger, outrage and rhetoric directed at Cecil's killer, worry they may be scorned and harassed for hunting bears.

The American who killed Cecil, Walter J. Palmer of Minnesota, also owns a million-dollar vacation home on Marco Island in Southwest Florida where vandals this week spray-painted "lion killer" on the garage door and littered the driveway with pickled pigs feet.

Florida wildlife commissioners, who voted in June to authorize the bear hunt despite overwhelming opposition from the public, animal-welfare advocates and conservation groups, set no limit on the number of licenses that can be sold for the weeklong hunt.

The agency plans to keep selling permits online until Oct. 23, the day before the hunt.

Early sales have been so brisk that licensed bear hunters could far outnumber bears in Florida when the season starts. [more]

Florida bear hunters may outnumber Florida bears

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