June 22, 2016
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more than 106 speakers, both for and against resuming a proposed black bear hunt, registered to address the meeting today in Florida. After nearly seven hours of comments, the FWC voted four-to-three against instituting a new hunt in 2016. They posted this announcement on their Twitter feed, “NEWS: Commission votes to postpone bear hunting in 2016. More details to come. #FWC2016.”
The announcement did leave the door open for a hunt in 2017, but today’s decision elated animal activists. Chuck O’Neal, who circulated this petition, and Peri Sedigh, two of hundreds of outspoken advocates opposed to the hunt, posted “We Won!!” and “We did it!!” on their Facebook pages, as didStop The Florida Bear Hunt.
A number of Florida counties, including Seminole, Volusia and Brevard, all passed resolutions in the past few months urging the state to ban bear hunting. In October 2015, more than 300 bears were killed in the state’s first bear hunt held in more than 20 years. Although there were minimum weight limits outlined for the culling of the bears, a number of advocates reported seeing the bodies of dead bears so small that they fit into small coolers. There were also kill limits placed per hunter, but again, advocates reported seeing hunters leaving with a higher than legal headcount.
Following that hunt, in December, 2015, Seminole County leaders passed a number of ordinances in an attempt to decrease the possibility of bear-human interactions. Among other rulings, they required residents in specific areas to use bear-proof trash cans to secure their garbage, a ruling which affected 26,000 County residents.
Today’s FWC announcement was met with scorn by various members, including Diane Eggeman, Director of Hunting and Game Management, FWC, who stated, “After our extensive review and analysis on this issue, particularly over the last year-and-a-half, the reality is clear. Hunting is an important tool in comprehensive bear management. Its use is grounded in strong science.” However, FWC Commissioner, Ron Bergeron, believed that there had not been a reliable count of the State’s current bear population. Aware that many Counties and residents had voted against the hunt, Bergeron had trouble supporting a hunt, stating, “We all represent 20 million people in the state. When I hear that these are estimates that are not final, I am not sure that is good enough for the people of Florida.” The FWC, following the announcement, stated, “Not holding a 2016 hunt …. would allow time for staff and Commissioners to address conflict bear population data to ensure any future hunts are focused where needed.”
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