FLORIDA'S BLACK BEAR HUNTING SEASON FORTHCOMING?
It has been over twenty years since Florida has allowed the hunting of black bears in the state. Due to the April 15th unanimous vote by Florida’s Wildlife Commission (FWC), that could all change following a second commission vote this June.
The FWC is considering a proposal to re-open the bear hunting season from October 24-30 as a way to maintain the bear population and lower encounters with humans. They wish to reduce the bear population by 20%. According to FWC documents, they would harvest around 240-280 bears statewide. This plan includes 40 bears from the eastern Panhandle, North Florida and Central Florida each, and 80-120 bears from South Florida.
So what has changed between 1994 and now? What makes this the pressing new battleground for animal rights activists like HSUS?
In 1974 the black bear was classified as a state-designated endangered species when the population was between 300-500 bears. A long and tedious 20 year legislative campaign to end the black bear hunting season was then successful. In 2012, the State declassified black bears as endangered species based on a 2002 statistic showing that nearly 3,000 black bears inhabited the state. Now, estimates are as high as 6,000 as the population continues to expand.
In recent years, human conflicts with bears in Florida have increased by over 400%, according to FWC statistics.
In 2012 they took no actions to combat the possibilities of future problems with human-black bear encounters in the state, and showed no movement to re-legalize black bear hunting.
What finally alerted the legislature to the problems of the rising bear population was the violence that they began to cause. Attacks last December on 68-year-old Jeanne Barber and on 15-year-old Leah Rader were just two of the four that happened over the past year. There have already been several recorded encounters with bears in early 2015, some even breaking into homes.
Yes, four attacks in a year is a relatively small number and not all of the attacks have been fatalities, but when you look at the gruesomeness of these attacks you have to realize that something must be done.
[caption id="attachment_3400" align="aligncenter" width="308"] Via ABC News[/caption]
Then consider that bear attacks alone are marginal compared to the other negative consequences overpopulation brings to the table. For example, there were nearly 200 car wrecks attributed to black bears in 2014. Since 1990 black bears are responsible for 2,957 automobile accidents, resulting in several severe injuries and deaths.
One example of these bear-caused wrecks happened just last December. The initial collision of a woman in an SUV into a 300 lb black bear started a chain reaction that left 3 dead and 8 injured. The high cost of bear overpopulation will continue to take its toll on Florida unless the FWC steps in.
However these facts are not enough for the animal rights radicals in the state of Florida. It does not matter to HSUS that human lives and even the lives of some animals are at risk to black bear violence. One cornerstone of these activists overarching agenda is to end hunting altogether; they are not willing to take a step backwards, even to protect the lives and welfare of humans.
Florida is the only state with a resident black bear population of more than 600 which does not allow for hunting, and they have ten times that. 32 of the 41 total states in the U.S. with black bears allow it. Those states need hunting to avoid the critical situation that Florida is in.
The plan does not solely reinstate black bear hunting, however, as many would have you believe. The FWC recognizes that a black bear hunting season would be a difficult path to take. They know that it alone will not solve the bear-human conflicts. Nevertheless, they recognize the benefits of alleviating the pressure of the growing bear population.
Kate MacFall, the Florida director of the HSUS, and her organization refuse to look at the complexity of the issue. She believes that “Not one study has ever shown that hunting bears in the woods helps decrease conflicts in neighborhoods. Not one.”
Although she is correct in the most literal and direct sense, this statement simply shows their ignorance. No, there is not a direct correlation to hunting and bears mauling 68-year-old women. But there is a correlation between a lower bear population and less human-bear encounters, no one can argue that. The less dense the bear population is in the woods means the less that they spill out into urban and suburban areas where there are people.
The southern regional director for the Humane Society of the United States, Lauren Bevan, takes another stance stating, “We’re spending so much time talking about hunting and setting up hunting seasons but they’re really not doing a whole lot on the trash issues. They have used that (conflicts) as an excuse to open up bear hunting, which they didn’t want to stop 20 years ago.”
However I think Leah Rader, who was only a spark in her parents' eyes at the time bear hunts in Florida were ended, does not have a twisted wish to slaughter black bears. She simply wants to live a normal life and not have to undergo countless surgeries and hundreds of stitches because she went on a walk with her dog.
No person should undergo what Leah did. To play dead as a 300 pound beast makes a meal of your back and neck. If something is not done, and soon, then more people will be forced to lay on the side of the road playing dead as these attacks continue.
The issue is not killing bears, it’s keeping the citizens of Florida safe.
The best description of the proposed Florida black bear hunt comes from the FWC spokeswoman Dianne Eggeman. She says, “It’s the best tool we have to manage this subpopulation and how fast they are growing.”
So people can protest the commission meetings all they want. Go ahead and dress up in a bear costume and look like an imbecile, but that won’t stop the Florida Wildlife Commission from doing what is best for their citizens.
We encourage our readers to contact the seven-member commission with your support. It is time to break away from the animal rights agenda and focus on human rights.