1. News

Hillsborough County, city of St. Petersburg tell Tallahassee to end black bear hunt

Richard Sajko of Valrico talks about how he killed one of the two bears on the back of his pickup truck during Florida's black bear hunt in 2015 at the Rock Springs Run Wildlife Management Area near Lake Mary. On Thursday, the Hillsborough County Commission and the St. Petersburg City Council both voted to send letters to Tallahassee demanding the end of the black bear hunt. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published Jun. 3, 2016

They may not have any power to change it, but Hillsborough County commissioners took a symbolic and united stance Thursday against the state's black bear hunt.

In a 6-0 vote, commissioners approved a resolution and letter to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission opposing this year's hunt.

The resolution came at the urging of Commissioner Stacy White, a self-described "avid outdoorsman" and hunter who said he supported hunting as a conservation tool for other animals — but not for the black bear.

"To put things in perspective, we have 700,000 white-tailed deer, 200,000 wild turkey and a million alligators in this state," he said. "In contrast there are at most 4,300 black bears across this state and the number may be as low as 3,000."

Last year's bear hunt, the first in Florida in more than two decades, ended after just two days because the 320-bear limit was nearly reached. It was supposed to last a week.

Tom Graef, regional director for the FWC, said the bear population is growing and they are moving into residential areas. Hunting is the only way to stop that, he said.

"More bears living among people means more human-bear conflicts and more vehicle accidents, putting more people and property at risk," Graef said during public comment.

Another speaker, Phil Walters, told commissioners they "don't have a dog in this fight" because Hillsborough doesn't have a black bear population. But they'll regret their vote, he said, if the county ever sees "an apex predator in close proximity to people."

White rebuffed that characterization as "absolutely, unequivocally false," noting that the bear's diet is mostly plant-based.

"I would welcome the opportunity to have a black bear population here in the county," White said.

On the other side of the bay, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday also passed a resolution 8-0 opposing the bear hunt. The sponsor of the measure, Council member Karl Nurse, noted the high number of mother bears killed last year that likely lead to the death of many cubs and the next generation of bears.

Pinellas County passed a similar proclamation in May.

But Hillsborough's resolution, spearheaded by an east Hillsborough conservative and backed by a Republican-controlled commission, was a pointed shot at the Republican administration in Tallahassee. The FWC meets later this month to discuss bear management.

As it was, the vote drew dozens of activists and hunters to speak out and attend Hillsborough's meeting, a rarity for a simple, relatively powerless, resolution.

Representatives from the local chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club joined the voices lobbying commissioners to approve the resolution. The room of activists broke out into applause and cheers when commissioners voted unanimously for it.

Megan Sorbo, the 10-year-old environmentalist who has become a mini-celebrity traveling across the state with a pink stool, pleading against the bear hunt, said the resolution "will help to make my voice and other citizen voices to be heard a little louder where it was ignored last year."


  1. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is hoping to secure a $21.8 million federal grant to help pay for a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. St. Petersburg City  Council approved an interlocal agreement Thursday supporting the project. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
    Pinellas transit officials hope the project will get a federal grant in 2020. However, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena still oppose it.
  2. Marissa Mowry, 28, sits in a Hillsborough County courtroom court before her sentencing hearing Thursday. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a boy when he was 11-years-old. She was his former nanny, and became pregnant with his child. Photo courtesy of WTVT-Fox 13
    Marissa Mowry was 22 when she first assaulted an 11-year-old boy. Now he’s a teenager raising a son, and she was classified as a sexual predator.
  3. The tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that’s projected to strengthen as it approaches Florida could put a crimp ― or much worse ― in Tampa Bay’s weekend plans. National Hurricane Center
    The National Weather Service warns that the Gulf of Mexico disturbance could strengthen and bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the bay area.
  4. Pat Frank, at a 2016 candidate debate with then-challenger Kevin Beckner. She won. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
    From school board to state lawmaker to clerk of courts, she just keeps on going, Sue Carlton writes.
  5. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and International innovation company, Imec have developed a camera that uses specific wavelength of light to easily find pythons in habitat where they are typically well camouflaged. 
    University of Central Florida researchers worked with Imec to develop the cameras.
  6. Pasco County Sheriff's deputies lead three teenagers from a Wesley Chapel Publix store after responding to reports that the boys had been showing off handguns there in a Snapchat video. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The three Pinellas boys were apprehended while they were still walking the aisles of the Wesley Chapel store.
  7. The 59-year-old pastor was arrested Oct. 2 after a young woman told investigators he began abusing her in 2014 when she was 14 and he was senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP
    Rev. Bryan Fulwider was released Wednesday night after posting a $700,000 bond.
  8. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.
  9. Yogi Goswami
    The Molekule Air Mini is a scaled-down version of its original purifier.
  10. In this image taken from video provided by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, border patrol agents escort a woman to a patrol car on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Aventura Hospital in Aventura, Fla. The woman had been detained by border patrol agents when she fell ill. The agent took her to the hospital emergency room for treatment. The presence of immigration authorities is becoming increasingly common at health care facilities around the country, and hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration. (Florida Immigrant Coalition via AP) AP
    Hospitals are struggling with where to draw the line to protect patients’ rights amid rising immigration enforcement in the Trump administration.