The final estimates of Florida’s black bear population, released Thursday, show that the corridor including Lake, Marion and Alachua counties has the densest bear population in the state.

The corridor, referred to as the Ocala/St. Johns population area in the study, is home to about 1,200 bears, with the highest density in and around the Ocala National Forest.

Statewide, the bear population was estimated at just more than 4,000, which was a 48 percent increase in the population from the last estimate done in 2003.

“Though differences in methodology between our estimates and the early 2000 estimates prevent direct comparisons, our data suggest that Florida’s bear population has increased and is doing well,” said study leader Joseph D. Clark of the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Tennessee.

The study was commissioned by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

For this study, bears were not captured to be counted. Instead, hair traps were used.

The traps consisted of barbed wire wrapped around four trees to form a square. The traps were baited with suspended glazed doughnuts or other sugary snacks and corn on the ground. When a bear stepped over or crawled under the barbed wire to investigate the bait, the barbs on the wire snagged hair.

The traps were left in place for six weeks and the hair was collected and sent for DNA analysis.

In the Ocala/St. Johns area, 190 traps were set up in June and July of 2014. Traps were placed from Rock Spring Run State Reserve in Lake County, throughout the Ocala National Forest and into Alachua County.

The traps collected more than 6,000 hair samples, which were then meticulously tested and cross-matched.

More than 15,000 hair samples were collected across the state from the panhandle to the Everglades. The Apalachicola study area has the second largest bear population, with nearly 1,100 bears estimated.

The final estimate comes nearly three months after the FWC decided not to hold a bear hunt in the fall. In 2015, the first bear hunt in decades was allowed. Fifty-five bears were killed in Marion County and 36 in Lake County during the two-day hunt. A total of 304 bears were killed statewide.

Critics of the hunt argued that the hunt should have waited until the final bear population estimates were completed.

The first bear hunt since 1994 came in response to a number of bear attacks on people across the state in 2014 and 2015. In addition to the hunt, the FWC has pushed for communities to invest in bear-proof garbage cans. Discarded food in garbage is nearly impossible for a bear to pass up and it will continue to visit the same area in hopes of scoring another easy meal.

The agency is working with local governments through its “Bear Wise” initiative to help reduce conflicts with bears. In 2015, Marion County received a $20,000 grant from the program to help buy 163 bear-proof trash cans.

“FWC’s focus remains responsibly balancing the needs of black bears with the safety and well-being of Florida’s families and communities,” Nick Wiley, FWC executive director, said in a prepared statement.