It’s been less than three years since Florida removed the black bear from its endangered and threatened species list—so we find it unbearable that the state is now poised to open a hunting season that would allow hundreds of Sunshine State bears to be killed this year. That’s why we have a jeer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff, who will present next week a series of recommendations and options for controlling Florida’s bear population.
The plan is to open four sections of Florida to a seven-day bear hunt in October. Hunters would be allowed to take 275 bears the first year — with nearly half of those coming from South Florida.
If approved, the change would allow bear hunting from Fort Myers across to St. Lucie and all lands to the south, except national parks and preserves. Commissioners would have to approve the changes at a second meeting, which is likely to take place in June.
This plan sounds just as horrific as New Jersey’s Bear Management Plan, approved by Gov. Christie, which vilifies bears in New Jersey. FoA is adamant that wildlife officials in states that have bear populations should be educating the public on what to do when they encounter a bear, such as staying together and not running, and teaching them to always carry bear deterrent spray, rather than wasting time spreading bear-hating propaganda.
Preventing conflict is key. The public needs to know how crucial it is to deprive bears of all human sources of food—then the situation becomes a lot safer. Florida residents need to know to never leave pet food outdoors, and if bears are around, do not put out bird seed. Bears that have been fed associate human scent with food, and that’s a dangerous thing.
That’s why we strongly support legislation like New Jersey’s Bear Smart Bill, S.687, which would prohibit bear baiting and make it mandatory for residents to use bear-resistant garbage cans—another solution to human-bear encounters that that state has ignored. Instead wildlife officials advocate for hunters, who buy licenses from them.
Shooting bears is not the sane answer. Better education is. You can call Diane Eggeman, hunting and game management director for the FFWCC at 850-488-3831, and tell her you oppose opening a bear hunting season in Florida.