Florida Gives Final Approval For Black Bear Hunting

June 25, 2015

October 24 will start a really bad few days to be a black bear in Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday voted 4-1, over the pleas of angry and frustrated critics, to approve rule changes that will allow an unlimited number of hunters to participate in the first hunt of black bears in the state in more than two decades.

About 300 bears are expected to be killed in four parts of the state where hunting will be allowed over two to seven days, starting on Oct. 24.

Commissioners said the hunt is a step in managing the growing bear population in Florida.

“Our responsibility lies in taking care of what we have here in Florida, to perpetuate for our next generations,” said Commissioner Richard Hanas.

“I don’t think that doing things like concentrating on garbage control and education and outreach, and all those types of efforts, and hunting are mutually exclusive,” added Commissioner Aliesa “Liesa” Priddy, who made a point to note she was not pressured into her decision. “I think we need to do both of those.”

Commissioner Ron Bergeron cast the lone vote against reviving the hunt this year.

Bergeron, noting he is an avid hunter, questioned the size of the proposed hunt as a sustainable figure for the bear population and said he would like staff members to gather more data about the number of bears, which were removed from the state’s threatened list in 2012, in two parts of the state where the hunt will proceed.

“I’m not supportive of hunting the way it’s presented,” Bergeron said. “You have to look at the interest of the bear.”

Chairman Richard Corbett said the commission will make additional changes to the rules if the hunt is found to be “overdone.”

With emotions running high from proponents and opponents, about 70 speakers addressed the commission before the vote at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. Most of the speakers opposed the measure, including one wearing a bear outfit, with many of the critics resigned that their comments wouldn’t change the outcome for what they view as a “trophy hunt.”

“We do not see this hunt resolving the human-bear conflict issues at this time,” said Maria Bolton-Joubert, programs chair for Sierra Club of Central Florida. “We see this as impacting the bear population further.”

Bolton-Jorbert, as with a number of other speakers, noted that Florida’s increased human population is expanding into wildlife habitat and that the state should further implement non-lethal rules, such as bear-proofing trash containers, prohibiting people from feeding wild bears and cracking down on the illegal harvesting of saw palmetto berries, which is a staple of a bear’s diet.

Katherine McGill, a founding member of the National Urban Wildlife Coalition, said the state should wait a year, when updated bear counts will be available, and see if rules designed to reduce human-bear conflict and nuisance animals can take hold.

“We need to stop killing our wildlife for being wildlife, for getting into trash, for getting into bird feeders, for just being seen walking through the backyard,” McGill said.

In addition to ongoing outreach efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to reduce human-bear conflicts through non-hunting measures, such as public education and trash control, Florida lawmakers approved a new law this year (HB 7021) that increased penalties for people charged a fourth time with feeding bears and alligators not in captivity. The charge would be a third-degree felony.

Currently, a fourth offense of illegally feeding wildlife within a 10-year period is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Among those supporting the return of the bear hunt include the National Rifle Association, Unified Sportsmen of Florida and a number of regional hunting groups.

Newton Cook, a member of the Future of Hunting in Florida board of directors, called the proposed effort to maintain the bear population “good science.”

“Too many people have lost their relationship to the natural world,” Cook said. “A bear and all wildlife live in very cruel, bloody harsh conditions in the wild. If you’re a hunter you see it. You see the deer that has been pulled down and partially eaten by coyotes, or a panther, or maybe a bear, sometimes still alive, but just the guts eaten out of it. It’s not pretty out there. But we get these Bambi mentalities and you have a problem.”

Robert “Bob” Andrew, president of the Southwest Florida Outdoorsman Association in Punta Gorda, added that the bear population needs to be regulated for the good of the bears.

“I’d rather see them harvested than starve to death,” Andrew said.

Some speakers viewed the hunt as a step in expanding hunting to other animals that the state has protected.

Carole Baskin, the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, expressed concern that reopening the bear hunting season will “embolden” the state to allow the Florida panthers to be hunted.

On Tuesday, the commission was presented with a proposal to alter conservation efforts for endangered Florida panthers.

The panther population-control plan, which Priddy said keeps panthers on the endangered species list, is expected to return before the commission in September.

At that time, the state is also expected to have updated numbers on the bear population in Florida so that the harvest numbers will be revised, said Diane Eggeman, director of the commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management.

Black bears were placed on the state’s threatened list in 1974, when there were between 300 and 500 across Florida. At the time, hunting black bears was limited to three counties. In 1994, the hunting season was closed statewide.

Florida now has an estimated 3,150 black bears in four regions — the eastern Panhandle, Northeast Florida, east-central Florida and South Florida — where the hunts would be conducted. The numbers are based on 2002 estimates for the eastern Panhandle and South Florida, and a 2014 count in the Northeast Florida and east-central Florida regions.

The hunt will be halted in each region — the FWC intends to communicate daily with hunters via text and email — once the quota for the area is reached, Eggeman said.

The timing of the hunt is set for when bears are typically more active, said Eggeman. It also comes at a time when most cubs are more mature and able to survive on their own, she said.

The cost to get a bear hunting permit will be $100 for Floridians and $300 for non-Floridians. Once the permits are made available, they can be acquired up until the day before the hunt begins.

Each hunter would be limited to one bear, and the kill would have to be registered and tagged within 12 hours.

The bears hunted must weigh at least 100 pounds.

Also, hunters would be prohibited from killing bears within 100 yards of active game-feeding stations. Hunters would also be prohibited from using dogs to hunt bear, but can have leashed canines trail shot bears.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

NorthEscambia.com file photo.


15 Responses to “Florida Gives Final Approval For Black Bear Hunting”

  1. naplesgal on June 29th, 2015 2:16 pm

    It’s nice to see we are gaining control of the Black Bear population. I have had several bears destroy my yard, threaten my dogs and myself. The story is not about eliminating all, but controlling the population. They do the same with deers when the herds get to dense and start destroying farming crops, etc. It’s all nature. This is not between what is human and what is animal. Much like having to watch a pack of wolves take down a beautiful buffalo, it’s disgusting, very sad and extremely savage like. Be thankful we have hunters with skills that will not let the bear suffer, and yet offer meat to those in need. This is how nature takes it’s course.

  2. yumyum on June 29th, 2015 8:20 am

    are you kidding me? control the bear beings’ population when the human beings’ population is so out of control ….its plum rediculas…quality of life vs quantitiy of life has got to be somewhere down the path of common sense….for all beings.

  3. David on June 28th, 2015 5:50 am

    When an out of control hungry bear population learns that there is ample food supply inside humans homes they will start breaking into homes. By the way they can tare a door of with ease. Then when someone gets in their way a person gets mauled. That’s when everyone blames government agencies for allowing it to happen and not protecting us. Suddenly those cute cuddly bears aren’t so cute. Allow the bear hunt to control the population and don’t feed the surviving bears. Common sense measures aren’t always warm and fuzzy.

  4. bearhugs on June 27th, 2015 8:47 am

    well if you think bears are so dangerous..you need to take a good look at mankind…there getting mo dangerous everyday. all the bear is looking for is some food and the bear is not half as dangerous as some humans who are roaming..stalking..and killing…..for fun or whatever…..yeah..and you dont see a bear selling drugs to anyone…..come on…face it…humans can be more dangerous than a defenseless bear…whose only need is survival.

  5. Mike on June 26th, 2015 11:10 pm

    …not to mention those poor cows, pigs, & chickens…they’ve been under mankind’s thumb for ages, it’s just terrible! :D

  6. bearhugs on June 26th, 2015 5:07 pm

    no justice or rights for the bear beings we share earth with….what a crying shame …..

  7. Mike on June 26th, 2015 10:49 am

    And don’t forget, the claws can be sold (I think, dunno about the legalities) as a nice necklace, on a leather thong to keep that woodsman authenticity! Mwahaha! :D

  8. Lisa Watson on June 26th, 2015 2:24 am

    This is truly evil.

  9. Mike on June 25th, 2015 6:21 pm

    Awesome! I wanna try some bear meat! I’ve read online that roasted, with most of the fat removed before cooking, makes a nice meal with a sort of roast beef flavor.

    Also, I was thinking that the skins could be used to make coats for the poor. The head skin, hollowed out & cured properly, could make a nice attached hoodie. Now that would make a nice warm coat! :)

  10. Kevin on June 25th, 2015 3:02 pm

    I think it’s great. Bears are dangerous and if they get hit by a car or a motorcycle due to over population lives could and have been lost including the Bears. Also to top it all off, Florida gets to charge hunters for something else. That’s one reason I don’t hunt in Florida anymore even though I live here. You can’t just go buy a hunting license and hunt. You have to buy a stamp for just about everything you want to hunt including a license and a management stamp. Before its all over the next thing we will have to give more money to the state for will be if we are going to use a ladder, lock on, climbing stand or a bucket, they just haven’t thought about it yet. I say as long as you plan on eating and using everything you can from the bear have at it but of course there needs to be a limit and size limit. Good luck

  11. No Excuses on June 25th, 2015 1:56 pm

    It can go one of two or three different ways. Overpopulation of bears can cause wandering bears to invade human territory and eventually cause harm to an innocent human. Or, they’ll starve because there’s not enough food to go around. Or, they’ll be so sickly and miserable due to lack of forage and food that the entire species will be in jeopardy. Maintaining a good bear population ratio (what the land can support, in other words) is a smart move, and it’s in the bears’ best interests as well. I don’t like to kill things, but I recognize that it’s necessary sometimes. I just don’t want to be the one to do it. :-) (Refer to the deer overpopulation in Yellowstone National Park due to predator removal – circa 1980’s).

  12. EMD on June 25th, 2015 12:16 pm

    NO! NOT FAIR! ! ! We will answer to our Creator for the way we treat His creation. This is so wrong.

  13. Greg on June 25th, 2015 12:04 pm

    Why should outrage of a few out way the desires of the ones that want it? Too many people are always involved with outdoors decisions that never get out of their yard. The same thing happened with the net ban.

  14. Candace Johnson on June 25th, 2015 9:52 am

    This is appalling! I cannot believe with all the public outrage, they are going to allow the hunting of the bears. It makes me sick! Is there anything more we can do now to stop it?

  15. Gary on June 25th, 2015 9:17 am

    Bear steaks on the grill and a nice comfy bear rug in front of the fireplace… Seiously though, I would rather a bear be harvested by a hunter than being hit by a car or wandering around areas for days searching for food.

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