2015 saw Florida’s first state-sanctioned black bear hunt in 21 years. 304 mothers, cubs and adult males were killed in the name of population management.
The last of Florida’s wild land is being developed at astonishing rates. Because of human encroachment, bear-human conflict has risen. The answer, according to biologists, is to implement non-lethal techniques such as intelligent trash management and education. In fact, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC’s) own studies prove that trash management can reduce this conflict by as much as 95%. Yet, it was the FWC that greenlit this wholesale massacre, claiming it would help lower bears’ risks to people.
The FWC is now gathering 2015 data to determine whether to hold another hunt this year. We must urge them to act according to biologists’ findings and in the best interest of the fragile Florida black bear population. This means putting an end to all future hunts.
Even in cases of overpopulation, hunting is not an appropriate management tool. Hunters act as “superpredators” by taking healthy adults in their prime reproductive years, leaving the surviving population weaker. This is the exact opposite of the selection process performed by natural predators, and adds a whole additional threat to the bears’ long term viability.
Opinion polls have consistently shown that the Florida public prefers non-lethal management to hunting. The FWC pointed to an increase in bear “nuisance calls” as evidence that their populations were out of hand and that hunting was warranted. Not only was this unscientific and unprovable, but it ignored the express wishes of the majority of Florida residents and violated the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that wildlife belongs to all people.
There is not a single biologist on the board at the FWC, but there are many hunters. One must wonder, then, what motives lay behind the FWC’s removal of black bears from the state Endangered Species List in 2012 and their reopening of the hunting season three years later.
We, the people, must demand that the FWC act in the interest of the public trust. Let’s call on them to put an end to all future black bear hunts and utilize non-lethal methods to ensure the health and safety of black bears and people