Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Fold to Anti-Hunting Pressure

Too often emotion and feelings get in the way of wildlife management, the latest example is Florida. They canceled their proposed bear hunting season for 2017 and 2018 citing “Public Opposition,” even though “the science is rock solid.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, commissioners voted 4-3 against a bear hunt this year. Commissioners then unanimously agreed to put off a hunt in 2018 to allow the agency to update its bear-management plan.

Commissioners listened to four hours of testimony from 80 people before making a decision. They ranged from a child who complained that killing bears was cruel to a frustrated beekeeper who warned the commission that the state’s next bear mauling will “be on y’all.”

Commissioner “Alligator” Ron Bergeron defended the bear as an iconic animal.

“I look at a bear like [I look at] a manatee, a bald eagle or a panther,” he said. Bergeron was joined in his opposition to a hunt by fellow commissioners Bo Rivard, Robert A. Spottswood and Chairman Brian Yablonski.

State wildlife biologist Thomas Eason described the bears’ recovery in Florida as “remarkable,” rebounding from as few as 300 in the 1970s to more than 4,000 now.

Several groups petitioned the agency last year to list the bear as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that its own study of the Florida black bear population concluded the species did not need federal protection.

The 2015 hunt sparked outrage among bear lovers and members of animal welfare groups, who flooded the agency with emails. Bergeron cast the only vote against that hunt. He said he could see no downside to putting the hunt on hold for at least two years.

The 2015 hunt killed 304 bears before it was called off, just two days into the week-long season.

After the outcry about the 2015 bear hunt, wildlife officials commissioned a telephone survey to gauge attitudes and opinions of Florida residents about the state’s native black bears and FWC’s management of the species.

The survey found that 70 percent of those responding support hunting, but that support falls to just 48 percent if the hunter’s target is a bear.

Wildlife need managed by science and hunting has been proven time and time again as an effective tool for managing populations and preventing human animal conflicts. States are very good at managing wildlife. Hunters have done more to increase animal populations than any other group of people. Hunting is conservation and without it we would not have the abundance of wildlife we have today.

To read the press release from the Orlando Sentinel CLICK HERE