Why the Hunt?

On June 24th, 2015 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a state wide hunt from October 24-30th to kill Florida’s black bears. The reasons stated for the approval were “population control” and “to reduce human/ bear confrontations”.

More than 175,000 people reached out to the commission in opposition to the hunt. About 250 people indicated support of the hunt. These 250 supporters of the cruel hunt primarily consisted of trophy hunters and weapon and gun interest groups.

Many reputable organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and The Center for Biological Diversity publicly stated their concern about the hunt and presented multiple scientific studies showing that hunting is not an effective population management tool.

Facts About the Florida Bear Hunt 10/24/15

1. The Hunt Is Unnecessary and Unwarranted.

In court testimony on October 1, 2015, Dr. Thomas Eason, Director of Habitat and Species Conservation for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), admitted that the black bear has not exceeded the biological carrying capacity of its habitat. In other words, there are not too many bears in the woods.

Dr. Eason also testified that scientific studies have shown that hunting does not reduce conflicts between bears and humans and this hunt is not expected to do so, either.

In testimony at the FWC's meeting on September 2, 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale, Dr. Eason explained that bear-human conflicts can be reduced by as much as 95% through trash-management practices alone.

If there are not too many bears in the woods, and conflicts with humans in suburbia can be almost completely solved with simple changes in human behavior, why is the state authorizing the killing of 320 bears?

2. The Hunt Is Driven by Politics, Not Science.

In 2012, when the Florida black bear was removed from the list of threatened species, the FWC adopted a comprehensive Bear Management Plan. The result of five years of work by the FWC's biologists, the Plan mentions hunting only in passing as a possible management tool in the future. The vast majority of its 200+ pages concentrates on:

• Creating wildlife corridors to connect bear sub-populations together
• Working with private landowners to make more habitat available
• Purchasing land for conservation
• Managing trash and educating the public about how to live in bear country

Hunting was not a central part of the Bear Management Plan. The hunt was ordered in 2015 by the political appointees on the Commission, none of whom are scientists. (They are property developers, big ranchers, and lawyers.) Further, the State Legislature has ignored the super-majority of Florida voters who passed Amendment 1 last year, refusing to allocate required funds for conservation purchases. This political failure short-circuits democracy and blocks attainment of the Bear Management Plan's goals, exposing our precious wilderness areas to even more “development.” Is violating the Constitution in order to prevent conservation a true expression of conservative values?

3. A Truly Conservative Approach Would Wait Until After 2016.

If the state were truly serious about being conservative, it would wait until it knows exactly how large (or small) the bear population really is. The FWC will not know this until 2016, when the results of a state-wide survey will be tabulated.

Dr. Eason testified in court that there is no reason to hunt now instead of waiting until the population numbers are updated in 2016. The hunt is only happening now because the political appointees ordered FWC staff to develop a hunting plan prematurely.

Dr. Stephen Stringham, one of the country's foremost bear biologists, testified in court that the population of bears in Florida could actually be declining. Holding a hunt now will invalidate the research that has already been conducted (at the expense of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars) and could push the bear back into the threatened status from which it has only recently emerged.

4. Innocent Animals Will Experience Great Suffering and Cruel Deaths.

“Nuisance bears” in suburbia are already being killed by the FWC (83 so far this year). This hunt targets bears deep in the woods who have not caused any problems. They are innocent but presumed guilty, and will be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

It can take as many as six shots at point-blank range (muzzle to fur) to kill a large adult bear. One shot, or one arrow, is very unlikely to kill a large bear quickly and humanely. Inevitably, bears will suffer in agony for some time, especially those who are never found by the hunters.

Mother bears with cubs are not supposed to be taken, but it is common for mother bears to “tree” their cubs as much as 200 yards away while they forage for food. Hunters will not see the cubs, and those cubs will be orphaned, left alone to die from starvation or predation by male bears. (Cubs stay with their mothers for as long as two years.)

At this time of the year – just prior to denning – many female bears will be pregnant. There is no way for a hunter to know this. In what way is it conservative to ignore the right to life of those unborn babies and their mother?

An increase in the number of encounters with bears in recent years was also sited to justify the hunt. The FWC failed to take into account that we have confiscated 82% of the Florida Black bear’s original habitat by clearing land for  commercial and residential buildings and that most of these “encounters” have been related to bears looking for food around places where people have left food, trash or pet food unsecured. The best ways to minimize human-bear interactions are to secure trash and use nonlethal methods of addressing problem bears.

Five (5) commissioners voted in favor of the hunt and one (1) voted against it. We are deeply disappointed that the commissioners who voted in favor of the hunt and who are paid with state funds, appointed to protect Florida’s wildlife, and conserve the beauty of the state voted to kill one of the most beautiful and gentle animals that we share our wonderful State with. Many more humane ways of dealing with the encounters were presented such as relocation, bear proof trash cans, and even sterilization. The FWC chose to completely ignore these well thought out proposals.

Killing is not Conservation!!! Shame on you FWC for being such poor stewards of our State’s wildlife. We will not forget. 

Member

Current Term Began

Original Appointment

Term Expires

Charles W. Roberts III 
Yes to hunt

Sept. 1, 2011

Sept. 1, 2011 

Aug. 1, 2016 

Ronald M. Bergeron 
No to hunt

March 8, 2013 

Aug. 6, 2007

Aug. 1, 2017

Adrien Bo Rivard 
Yes to hunt

March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013

Aug. 1, 2017

Richard A. Corbett 
Yes to hunt

March 8, 2013

February 2003

Jan. 6, 2018

Brian S. Yablonski 
Yes to hunt

April 4, 2014

January 2004

Jan. 5, 2019 

Richard Hanas 
Yes to hunt

June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014

Aug. 1, 2017

Liesa Priddy 
Yes to hunt
Jan. 6, 2012 Jan. 6, 2012 Jan. 6, 2017

Everyone except Ronald M. Bergeron voted in favor of the hunt. Please send a letter to all of these individuals and let them know how disappointed you are in their irresponsible decisions to allow this hunt.  

Please send them a email to let them know how disappointed you are with their decision and as a voting Floridian, you do not support their actions. We also recommend sending Ronald Bergeron a Thank you letter for his opposing vote. 

You can contact the commissioners here: http://myfwc.com/about/commission/commissioners/

You can also report employee misconduct or fraud using this form: http://myfwc.com/contact/fwc-staff/report-misconduct/

Please see the following websites for more information: