Florida’s black bears are once again under threat of trophy hunters invading their forest homes and shooting them for no reason.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may revisit the issue of a Florida statewide hunt on black bears, and it is time for citizens to let them know we want our bears protected – not shot for a trophy.
The issue could come up for discussion fairly soon, possibly at the Commission’s April 19-20 meeting in Tallahassee. Floridians should urge the Wildlife Commission to listen to the majority of us who want Florida black bears treated humanely and conserved for future generations.
Florida’s bears are a unique subspecies of the American black bear and were only removed from the state’s threatened list in 2012. Florida’s bears are slow to reproduce, and females spend up to 18 months raising their cubs. If a mother is killed by a trophy hunter, her cubs could die from starvation, dehydration, predation or exposure.
Last year, a group of knowledgeable Florida scientists sent a detailed letter to the Wildlife Commission, warning that allowing the hunt to continue as it did in 2015, coupled with roadkill numbers, nuisance bears killed and poaching, “may well plunge multiple subpopulations into sharp decline.”
No one in modern times needs to hunt bears for food or clothing. They are hunting for thrills, and Floridians don’t support this. Of more than 40,000 comments sent to the FWC before the 2015 hunt, 75 percent opposed it. A 2015 statewide Remington Research poll found that nearly two-thirds of Floridians oppose bear hunting. The poll showed that Floridians overwhelmingly favor educational outreach (84 percent) and bear-proof garbage cans (81 percent.) Eighty-seven percent agreed that neighborhoods near areas where bears roam have a responsibility to avoid attracting bears by securing their garbage and other foods.
County commissions in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Seminole and Volusia, and city commissions in Davie, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, Deltona, Clermont, South Miami, Biscayne Park, Eustis, Safety Harbor and Palmetto Bay all passed resolutions opposing a Florida bear hunt.
Our state wildlife officials publicly acknowledge what the scientific research shows — that bear hunting does not reduce bear-human conflicts, because the bears hunters kill in deep woods are not the “problem” bears found rooting in unsecured suburban garbage cans. The FWC has authority to deal with those kinds of bears without holding a hunt. In fact, newly invigorated efforts to provide neighborhoods with training and bear-proof garbage bins have already cut the number of nuisance complaints.
As development sprawls across Florida, our bears already face threats from highways and genetic isolation from other bear subpopulations.
If you oppose a new trophy hunt on our black bears, please take a few minutes to write the Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners at Commissioners@MyFWC.com or call them at (850) 488-4676.
Kate MacFall is the Florida state director for The Humane Society of the United States.