MIAMI - Authorities in Florida said Wednesday they will legalize black bear hunting, banned since 1994, in a move that sparked outcry from animal rights activists. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said it would allow black bears to be hunted during a period of one week this year, from October 24 to 30. The commission argued that black bear populations have grown in Florida, and the omnivorous mammals now threatens humans. “Bear populations have recovered in large portions of the state,” the agency said in a statement. “FWC’s responsibility is to conserve and manage the bear population for the public benefit, which means adding hunting into our approach.” The black bear was considered a threatened species in Florida until recently, with its numbers climbing from as few as 300 in 1974 to 3,000 in 2002. The animal was removed from the threatened species list in 2012. The US Humane Society slammed the decision, and said the black bears remain at risk. “The FWC has ignored sound science, responsible wildlife management and the majority of Floridians who oppose a hunt on this highly vulnerable and rare sub-species of bear,” said Kate MacFall, the Humane Society’s Florida director.

But the FWC defended its decision, and said hunting was a sound way to keep the black bear population in check. “Despite the opposition, hunting is the best way we have to control population size and in that way to support conflict management,” the statement said. In 2014, several people were injured in three separate bear attacks in the state.

The FWC said it expects about 300 bears to be killed during the culling season. The American black bear, North America’s most common bear species, typically lives in forested areas but sometimes travel into populated towns and cities in search of food.