Florida to hold first black bear hunt in 20 years

FLORIDA -- It might surprise you that, in a state famous for alligators and crocodiles, there is an exploding population of black bears.

So -- over the objection of animal rights activists -- the state is allowing bear hunting, for the first time in 20 years, and it starts tomorrow.

Watch: Bear belly flops into Florida pool

For the first time in her life -- 70-year-old Glynda Bryant is about to go hunting -- for a bear.

Bryant said joining the bear hunt feels as if "we're kind of like the posse that the sheriff hires and says, 'Anybody want to be deputized to help us catch this guy?'"

Bryant is one of more than 3,400 people in Florida who've paid for a $100 permit to try to shoot a bear this weekend.

Over the last 20 years, the black bear population has soared from 300 to more than 3,000.

And so have the nuisance complaints. Nearly 6,400 people called authorities last year to report bears wandering into neighborhoods.

A limit of 320 bears can be killed in the hunt, but animal activists like Linda Harsin fear a slaughter.

Harsin said, "Let's face it. This is no more than a trophy hunt -- just a way to get a new head on the wall, a rug on the floor, or a paw as a paper weight."

But state authorities say they will closely monitor the hunt.

Nick Wiley runs Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"Bears are not easy to kill," Wiley said.

Approval of the hunt sparked six months of protests. Environmentalists sued to prevent it and lost.

Ron Bergeron is a lifelong hunter and one of two wildlife commissioners who voted against the bear hunt.

He says the bigger problem is coming from people and their trash. Bergeron said, "95 percent of the conflicts of bears going into neighborhoods and the safety issue to people is the garbage."