WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -

Wildlife officials have approved a plan to remove the Florida black bear from the state's threatened species list. 

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ended the decades-old protections for the bears at its meeting in Palm Beach Gardens on Wednesday. 

Florida black bears were once found throughout the state, but their population was decimated by hunting and development. The threatened species protection has been credited with their rebounding population, with around 3,000 bears now believed to be alive. 

The measure that passed does not allow the bears to be hunted, but a parade of wildlife advocates voiced dissent to the plan, saying that taking away their protected status is a mistake.