Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Environment

State’s new bear management plan does not call for another bear hunt

The 2015 hunt, the first in 21 years, caused so much controversy that wildlife officials put off deciding about another one until now
Richard Sajko of Valrico, FL talks about how he killed one of the two bears on the back of his pickup truck at the first Florida Black Bear hunt in 21 years at the Rock Springs Run Wildlife Management Area near Lake Mary Florida. 
(Saturday, October 24, 2015.) [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Richard Sajko of Valrico, FL talks about how he killed one of the two bears on the back of his pickup truck at the first Florida Black Bear hunt in 21 years at the Rock Springs Run Wildlife Management Area near Lake Mary Florida. 
(Saturday, October 24, 2015.) [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Oct. 8

Florida wildlife officials are not recommending the state hold another bear hunt as part of a proposed management plan for the animals they released Tuesday.

Instead, the 209-page draft plan from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission talks about managing the bears’ habitat and access to trash bins in order to help prevent conflicts with humans. While the plan does mention hunting as a population management tool in other states, there’s no recommendation to hold a successor to the hunt that happened in 2015.

“That’s a policy decision,” wildlife commission executive director Eric Sutton said Tuesday. That means his bosses, the commissioners, “are the ones who would have to decide this.”

The commission is seeking public comment on the new bear plan, with commissioners scheduled to discuss it and those comments at their meeting Dec, 11-12.

The fact that there’s no recommendation for a new hunt is “good news for the bears,” said Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club, an organization that had tried to halt the hunt in 2015.

“We’re hopeful” that Florida is done with bear hunting, said Kate McFall of the Humane Society’s Florida chapter. “We will be continuing to watch this closely.”

On the wildlife commission’s website, a list of points about the new management plan says it “acknowledges that, as both the human and bear populations continue to increase in Florida, at some point the number of bears will need to be addressed in some way.” The options listed include not just a possible hunt at some point in the future, but also hiring contract trappers, relocating bears or manipulating their fertility or their habitat.

Four years ago, after a series of bear attacks on humans, the commission voted to hold the state’s first bear hunt in 21 years. It was supposed to last a week and the number of bears to be killed was not supposed to exceed 320. But Florida’s hunters killed so many bears over the opening weekend – 304 – that state wildlife officials shut down the hunt after only two days.

RELATED STORY: First bear hunt in 21 years shut down after just two days.

The vote to approve the 2015 hunt had already been controversial. Of the 40,000 calls, letters and emails sent to commissioners before their vote, 75 percent urged them to vote against reviving the bear hunt.

Critics complained that commissioners were basing their decision on outdated scientific data, and noted that a hunt would not have any effect on halting further attacks.

The controversy grew hotter after the hunt, when the wildlife commission’s biologists reported that among the bears that were killed were 36 lactating females, suggesting some cubs had been orphaned. The biologists said that the hunt had been timed so that any orphaned cubs would be old enough to survive on their own.

In 2016, when commissioners debated holding another hunt, the proposal failed. And when commissioners brought the idea up again in 2017, they ultimately decided not to even discuss holding another bear hunt until this year. In the meantime, they asked for an updated management plan.

RELATED STORY: No new bear hunts before 2019, wildlife commission says.

The goal of the plan, according to the website, is to “increase the chances that healthy, self-sustaining, and genetically diverse bear populations will thrive in Florida and human-bear conflicts will be minimized.”

The plan does note that the sale of bear hunting permits in 2015 raised $375,000, which the agency then used to help pay for bear-resistant trash cans in areas where bears had been seen as threatening to humans.

WANT TO COMMENT? Go to this link for the plan and for a survey to comment on it: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/bear/




ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Jeremy Sutliff drags a freshly cut hop plant over to the harvesting machine at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Researchers are trying to make a variety of hops suitable to Florida’s climate.
  2. Florida Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, joins other environmentalists at the Sierra Club Friday to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to dedicate at least $300 million to land conservation. [Caitlin Johnston]
    A bill in the Senate proposes dedicating $100 million to conservation efforts, but activists want the state to spend triple that amount.
  3. At the request of a state lawmaker, Citizens Property Insurance Co.’s board is again bringing in an outside evaluator to help the insurer decide if and how to cull its policyholder base. Pictured is  Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) (left) and Barry Gilway, CEO of Citizens. [Courtesy of Sen. Jeff Brandes and Citizens Property Insurance Co.]
    At the request of St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes, the insurer will look for ways to shrink.
  4. Richard Sajko of Valrico talks about how he killed one of the two bears on the back of his pickup truck in 2015 during the first Florida Black Bear hunt in 21 years at the Rock Springs Run Wildlife Management Area near Lake Mary. The hunt was so controversial that state officials have not held a second one. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
    But commissioners leave the door open for future hunts in next decade
  5. An Air Force carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Navy Seaman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, of St. Petersburg, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. A Saudi gunman killed three people including Haitham in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Foreign citizens are allowed to buy guns if they first get a hunting license
  6. This photo provided by Time magazine shows Greta Thunberg, who has been named Time’s youngest “person of the year” on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.   The media franchise said Wednesday on its website that Thunberg is being honored for work that transcends backgrounds and borders.  (Time via AP) [AP]
    She rose to fame after cutting class in August 2018 to protest climate change.
  7. An administrative judge previously said a Pasco County ordinance allowing solar farms in agricultural districts did not violate the county's comprehensive land-use plan. On Tuesday, the county rejected a settlement offer from the litigants who challenged the planned solar farm. [Times]
    Two residents proposed a $165,000 payment to end litigation over a planned solar farm in Blanton.
  8. FILE -  In this June 8, 2015 file photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, volunteers with the Coral Restoration Foundation swim to a coral reef planting site with staghorn coral clippings in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo, Fla. On Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, sanctuary officials announced plans to raise $100 million to spearhead a multi-decade restoration program for seven iconic reef sites off the Florida Keys. (Bob Care/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP) [BOB CARE  |  AP]
    Restoration efforts involving growing and transplanting corals have proven successful in the Keys.
  9. This aerial photo shows White Island after its volcanic eruption in New Zealand Monday. The volcano on a small New Zealand island frequented by tourists erupted Monday, and a number of people were missing and injured after the blast. (George Novak/New Zealand Herald via AP) [GEORGE NOVAK  |  AP]
    Police said the site was still too dangerous hours later for rescuers to search for the missing.
  10. A pair of bottlenose dolphins surface off the coast off Savannah, Ga., as viewed from a vessel heading to Gray's Reef on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) [ROBERT F. BUKATY  |  AP]
    The dolphin was stuck in a lobster trap line. The crew’s actions likely saved the dolphin’s life.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement