Poll: Should hunting of black bears in Florida be allowed?

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A little less than three years ago, Florida’s native black bears were listed as an “imperiled species”, as their numbers in the wild recovered slowly from a low of only several hundred towards the end of the 20th century.

Now, in a move environmental groups have branded a “painful new development”, the state’s wildlife leaders have placed the animals back in the sights of hunters after a 20-year absence.

In an action opposed by 61% of Florida’s human population, according to a recent survey, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has ordered staff to draw up plans to revive an annual bear hunt.

The proposed “harvest” is one of a number of aggressive new measures needed, the commission argues, because of the increasing encroachment of “nuisance bears” in residential areas and four serious attacks by bears on humans since December 2013, including the mauling of a 15-year-old girl.

“Our responsibility is to protect the citizens of this state,” said commission chairman Dick Corbett. “We have to take a more aggressive approach to conflict wildlife.”

A black bear perches on a tree in Panama City, Florida. The state is considering a limited hunting season of the once-imperiled animal as part of a solution to the rise in bear-human encounters. Photograph: Andrew Wardlow/AP

Among the other measures approved at a two-day commission meeting in Jacksonville, which ends Thursday, were harsher penalties for residents who leave out food that attracts bears, more animal-proof trash cans for neighbourhoods close to bear populations, an improved education programme to reduce human-bear encounters, euthanasia of nuisance bears, and more “hazing” of the animals – such as scaring them away with pellets and paintballs.

But it was the discussion over the possible restoration of bear hunting for the first time since it was outlawed in 1994 that drew swift and harsh criticism from wildlife advocates.

“The idea of bears being killed appalls me,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association who led a vocal but ultimately unsuccessful effort to persuade the FWC not to remove Florida black bears from its imperiled species list in 2012.

“I fear mother bears will be killed and cubs will be orphaned. The idea that it’s coming to this is tragic.”

Beyond the emotion of the issue, Schwartz insists, the FWC’s own studies show that predicted future development in Florida, and an estimated near-doubling of the current population to 36 million by 2060, will continue to reduce the bears’ habitat and lead to the deaths of more animals on the roads as more highways are built.

“You already have hundreds of bears killed by vehicles each year,” Schwartz said. “There is no reason to expect Florida’s bear population, or any other wildlife population, is going to increase in the coming decades. Just the opposite is likely. It’s only a matter of time before the Florida black bear is placed back on the imperiled species programme, and possibly on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s threatened species list.” Advertisement

State wildlife officials say they do not know exactly how many black bears live in the wild in Florida, and the results of a study currently under way will not be available until later this year or possibly next.

But they claim that the rebound in numbers to an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 bears, based on figures from the most recent survey in 2002, is strong enough to sustain a “conservative harvest” during a week-long bear hunt in the autumn.

Permits would cost $100 for Florida residents and $300 for out-of-state hunters, and commission staff propose a limit of 20% of the current bear population less road-killed and euthanised animals, amounting to 275 bears per year. That figure, the FWC concedes, will likely increase when new population estimates are ready.

“We are not proposing that hunting is going to directly resolve most of these human-bear conflicts in suburban areas,” said Dr Thomas Eason, director of the FWC’s division of habitat and species conservation, who pointed out that 32 of the 41 states with black bears already use hunting as a population management tool.

“Where hunting can augment [other] efforts is where we have our core population; hunting can help manage those bear numbers to where there are fewer young animals dispersing out of their areas and less bears in those peripheral areas being pulled in, lured in, by garbage.”

Several supporters of harvesting addressed the commission, including Chuck Echenique of Tampa, who said that years of no hunting had produced generations of bears with no fear of humans. “Once a bear gets a taste of trash, it’s like crack. No way that bear is going back to foraging in the woods,” he said.

Before the meeting, a survey of Florida residents conducted for the Humane Society of the United States showed 61% against the re-introduction of a bear hunting season and only 25% in favour.

According to Schwartz, meanwhile, the decision by the seven-member commission to press ahead with plans for a bear hunt, which they could approve as early as their next meeting in April, comes down to politics.

“Almost all of the commissioners like to hunt and fish and make no bones about their advocacy for hunting,” he said. “They cater to the hunter.”

We invite you to share your opinion, whether hunting of black bears in Florida should be allowed. Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should hunting of black bears in Florida be allowed?

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If you are against the hunting of black bears in Florida, please take a couple of minutes to sign the petition:

Stop Killing Innocent Florida Black Bears!!!

This article was first published by The Guardian on 06 Feb 2015.

 

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Erika Becerra

NO! Enough is enough! Stop the cycle. First kill the predator and then complain about too much prey! Idiotic.

Pat Jenquin Rahikainen

no. black bears should not be hunted in Florida or anywhere else

Christopher James Glisson

You've already previously had them at an imperilled level, doesn't common logic work in that neck of the woods ???
Oh God ! There are those duelling banjos again ! Go figure.

Bill George

All the people who want to save a bear from being killed should apply for a captive wildlife permit and create a facility to protect them. Then see if FWC will allow you to get the ones they are going to euthanize. Nice word for kill. Then you can keep this wild animal in a cage so that it can be happy for the rest of its years, not. There is no good place to put habituated bears back out in the wilds. The state is taking a much more aggressive approach to removing the bears from communities when they… Read more »

Ray Baker

so u think its better for them to starve and be killed by cops and throw in the local dumps. you r a IDIOT AND SHOULD NOT BREED.

Ray Baker

some people like her should not breed.

Greg Lesniak
Greg Lesniak

Hopefully I'll be lucky enough to draw a bear tag.

Leigh Lofgren

If the majority are against it, why is it proceeding? Must not be allowed

Anonymous
Anonymous

Leave wildlife alone. Humans have already disrupted the environment immeasurably. When will humans learn that animals are "creatures", snetient beings, and not "things". Those that kill animals have lost their respect for life in general.

Laura Maxwell Murnane
Laura Maxwell Murnane

NO!!

Chuck Echenique

Katherine McGill None of us has claimed this as a trophy hunt. Bear hunters, like all other hunters, enjoy hunting for various reasons. We do not kill indiscriminately and killing is but a small portion of the entire hunting experience. Much more than the killing of an animal (which is always solemn act and one in which we hold the life of the animal in reverence) is the ability to feed ourselves and out families of the bounty which the animal has provided for us. It is not about trophy hunting as you would have others think. But apart from… Read more »

Katherine McGill

Pushing for a bear hunt to be able to kill bears for a trophy, falsely based on safety concerns instead of waiting for better science is MUCH more an emotional (selfish) reaction than those saying "wait a year". Don't throw "emotional" accusatory stones from your glass houses, pro-bear hunters.

Frank Denninger
Frank Denninger

Hypothetically if homes get built everywhere bears will only be seen behind cages in zoos – that wouldn't be a good thing but it is reality in the 21st century.

Frank Denninger
Frank Denninger

Since when can't a hunter express public safety concerns without being charged with exploitation. I'm a deer hunter and don't care to hunt bears and won't even if legalized. I'm also a citizen that believes government has to provide public safety no matter how that impacts a dangerous species – no matter what species. Junk science got the bear problem to where it is today and real simple not so common – common sense will will solve it.

Lucky Martin
Lucky Martin

They need killing to many of them

Gina Hamilton
Gina Hamilton

Yes. You have to control the population or they will continue to move into our towns and suburbs. Eventually harming a child or adult

Morgan N Jason Thompson
Morgan N Jason Thompson

Kill them all!

Jerry A Wood
Jerry A Wood

Yes should be a season. And gov. Shouldn't control hunting. Dedicated hunters should have our own control system. Private sector!!

Robert Cruz
Robert Cruz

Don't know about the rest of the state , but SW-FLA has a healthy bear population.
So much so that they're in constant conflict with people.
Hopefully the FWC will make a sound decision and allow some form regulated bear hunting in the near future.

Drew Monroe

Yes kill them all. them use less bastards. Are every where and have made one hell of a come back

Newton Earl Cook

Those who have spoken in support of bear hunting have not said hunting will eliminate human/bear conflicts, especially if rules are not put in place regarding garbage in areas next to bear habitat. Bear hunting is simply another part of the overall hunting program for Florida, just as it is in well over 20 other states with bear populations with surpluses enough to support a controlled harvest of the resource. Bears are a traditionally hunted animal no different than deer or turkey….and man has been hunting them in N. America from earliest times….a source of food and hides as well… Read more »

James Rigby II

And it's hunters' tax dollars through excise taxes on hunting equipment including guns and ammo which have paid for the majority of your protected state and national parks. If you want more protected habitat you should support more hunting because it brings in more of these tax dollars which is then used to purchase more land.

James Rigby II

I can respect that, however, any participation in society as we know it indicates support for the millions of acres of development that affects the environment. Furthermore, you should know that it's the hunters in this country whose tax dollars paid for protected environmental areas such as national parks, state parks and state wildlife management areas. It's conservation efforts led by hunters which have saved many species. Hunters have been the leading conservationists in this country and you owe us more thanks than you'd probably ever want to know.

James Rigby II

My comment was neither knee-jerk nor was it emotional. What I said was completely true. Any "wildlife management" that allows a population to be hunted to the point where it needs to repopulate is being done incorrectly. Likewise, allowing a population to go unchecked is also poor management. Like Chuck said a well run hunting program allows for a consistent population that we can all enjoy.

Your comment regarding game species being artificially enhanced for the pleasure of hunters has no bearing (pardon the pun) in this particular case.

Frank Denninger
Frank Denninger

Two negatives make a positive yes vote? Go Fordham !

Chuck Echenique

James Rigby II I say we test it on Michele Lacroix and all her buddies to see if it works.

Chuck Echenique

Magicalm Mirror*Disgusting There's nothing disgusting* about hunting. Hunting is why you have an abundance of deer, turkeys, song birds, ducks, and all manner of animals to look at and enjoy. Hunters were the first conservationists and remain the leaders in conservation to this day. It is our billions of dollars that have bought national park lands, national wildlife refuge lands, state wildlife management areas and continue to maintain them. 28.1 million hunters nationally according to National Shooting Sports Foundation research conducted in 2011. Hunters eat what they shoot and care about keeping nature as pure as possible. Stop buying into… Read more »

Chuck Echenique

National Urban Wildlife Coalition Obviously you have never seen what happens to a population of animals that has no natural predator and left to run unchecked. It's not pretty. Starvation, disease and prolonged periods of recovery are what happens when a species without a predator is left to grow out of control. Not to mention the loss of property created by nuisance wildlife and vehicle collisions. Legal, well regulated hunting can maintain a carying capacity of animals for a given area so that it remains healthy and robust at a more consistent level than the wide peaks and valleys nature… Read more »

Chuck Echenique

What is cruel is allowing animals to overpopulate.
What's cruel is seeing animals euthanized and a natural resource go to waste.
What's cruel is watching bears get hit by cars.
Cruelty is the animal rights movement. Stop anthropomorphizing bears. They are animals that live through instinct and fear, not reasoning and emotion.

Chuck Echenique

Katherine McGill No one is lying. I did not say hunting would be the cure. I said hunting is a useful management tool and that the population is viable and capable of withstanding a sustain, limited hunting season in order to control the population. Further, not every bear encountered will be killed. But hunting of any species makes that species afraid of human interaction. Have you ever been walking in a WMA property that allows hunting and encountered a deer? That deer doesn't sit there staring at you and let you walk up to it or even in close proximity.… Read more »

Magicalm Mirror

thats discusting to build an ego to hunt. That is such abuse…that is so aweful its discusting to even read something like that.

Magicalm Mirror

this should not be allowed in no way shape nor form

Katherine McGill

This frenzy to get a hunt approved RIGHT now…? What are ya'll afraid of if we don't approve hunt NOW? That the other proposed non-lethal measures of the Plan might reduce conflicts and sway people next year away from a hunt? Gee, that's an ethical attitude our wildlife needs today. Hypothetically, what if you are dead wrong? What if continued drastic habitat loss pushes our bears back into being endangered and we jumped into this hunt too quickly, you've now killed off dozens of our genetically prime male bears. So a few of you got a few bear rugs for… Read more »

Katherine McGill

I am a FL resident (read: equal stakeholder to any hunter), also own Rocky mountain property – lots of bears, lots of hunting, yet also increasing conflicts and complaints! You are exploiting fears and stating biased data. I know the data, the report and The Plan, we've all heard the experts agree that hunting will have little to zilch effect on conflicts. Even auto conflicts decreased last 2 years, but ya'll keep pointing to old data anyway; Lying and exploiting public fears won't help public perception of hunting. Any ethical, genuine conservationist would say let's wait a year, at least… Read more »

Katherine McGill

Yep, they'll kill a few dozen/ a hundred boars a season… yes, that will artificially create a TEMPORARY bear population increase in a couple areas – but they've now taken out our genetically primo breeding males. Could potentially be a HUGE mistake for a state with 7 fragile, unconnected bear populations. If you hunters don't get that, put down your gun and go take a wildlife biology 101 course.

Katherine McGill

Sooo… the non-nuisance bears killed in forest will send a memo (from their grave) to suburban bears to "be afraid of humans"? And you're calling those opposed "irrational"? 😉

National Urban Wildlife Coalition

Sorry James, your entirely off your mark. Sometimes management does fail, or gets pushed back by habitat loss, or numerous reasons but hunting does also fail and always will, because we'll never beat Nature at times. Surely you know that? Your knee-jerk reaction was emotional. Wildlife/game management is strategic, not benevolent. It creates the ability to profit from hunting by sustaining and/or artificially increasing a game species population size by interfering with natural population control methods, even at the expense of that species' quality by continuous killing off the prime breeding animals. Unfortunately the public has been served the "mustn't… Read more »

National Urban Wildlife Coalition

Even the spokesman for a national sportsmen group stated "I would never kill…. a skinny bear". Well, why not? No, he wants a trophy bear rug, clearly couldn't care less about "bears starving from over-population". If I worked in a Hunting PR field, I'd smack that guy for publicly exposing one of the Great Myths of Hunting Today.

National Urban Wildlife Coalition

Wildlife/game management is strategic, not benevolent. It creates the ability to profit from hunting by sustaining and/or artificially increasing a game species population size by interfering with natural population control methods, even at the expense of that species' quality by continuous killing off the prime breeding animals. Unfortunately the public has been served the "mustn't let Bambi starve" kool-aid, remaining oblivious to the Nature vs Money Model we have been using for nearly a century. Ever wonder why the most popular hunting areas never quite seem to reduce their "deer over-population"? Either hunting doesn't work one bit, or it's entirely… Read more »

National Urban Wildlife Coalition

Over-population: Fact or Kool-aid served to public? A hunt this fall will kill dozens of BOAR (trophy) bears, which are Nature's primary tool for population control. Result? This hunt is in truth intended – with great risk – to artificially increase this bear population, which could likely increase the potential for more bear-human conflicts. * Read that again. * Get it now? What happens next? More bears, more exploited conflicts, and more Tags to sell to kill more bears in each coming year. Do the math, follow the money. (this is the precisely the same strategy behind opening FL alligator… Read more »

National Urban Wildlife Coalition

This Bear Hunt frenzy right now is WRONG. It's too soon, blatantly ignoring science and solid facts. Exploiting the "safety" excuse is BS, experts fully admit that killing non-nuisance bears in forest does zilch as solution to suburban conflicts. They admitted that a hunt will not provide enough revenue to both manage the hunt and supplement other costs of the plan re education, staff and tools needed. Hunters ignoring science and facts while exploiting fears is exposing a very bias self interest. Not helping the diminishing public perception of hunting today one bit.

Bo Gittleman

Lily………have you seen the poll lately? LOL

Sarah Boynton
Sarah Boynton

No!!!

Carol Keith

If people would stop feeding,leaving trash exposed,etc. these animals would be more prone to staying away from humans.They don't want to be near the enemy and can't help that their nose is hypersensitive to food odors.Please try other avenues before killing,every animal is necessary.

Tonya Raymon
Tonya Raymon

Expect wildlife to be on your front door when you are the one taking up the space they need to live.

George Perklns

try going to China and telling them that you're going to take control of their pandas because its international heritage let me see how that works for you

George Perklns

haha, you notice this is an anti hunting site and you're losing out on your vote Florida hunters I've had enough and we may finally be united on a common cause

Kurt Hargarten
Kurt Hargarten

Notice most of the stupid, emotion-based arguments are from the females?

Kurt Hargarten
Kurt Hargarten

If their population isn't controlled, they will exceed their food supply, causing them to raid other food sources, like human's garbage cans or even starve to death.

Simple Hunting

So if we hunt and the "Desired population level" is reached do we then pass a note to all the bears to stop reproducing? Once the carrying capacity of the land is reached there will always be a surplus that needs to be managed. If hunters in my native state did not kill 300,00 deer a year the entire state would be over run with them. Bear are a renewable resource and will produce a "Crop" every year. If the core numbers start to dwindle then hunting can be curtailed or cropped. A FL. bear season will not be a… Read more »