Monday, January 26, 2015

Take action to stop the hunting of the Florida Black Bear

The state of Florida is moving to overturn a 20-year-old Florida Black Bear hunting ban. Take action to keep them out of the cross-hairs and speak at an important meeting in Jacksonville next week.

Background:

Photo by Carlton Ward, Jr.
The Florida Black bear is one of the most beloved species in the state. This subspecies of the American black bear once roamed every corner of the state from Pensacola to the Florida Keys. 

From a high population of 12,000 to currently 3,000, the state’s largest mammal has been driven from most of its habitat. To protect the bear, the state legislature banned its hunting in 1994. However, in 2012, the state lifted the bear’s “threatened” status to open the door to hunting.

Take action!

1) Attend the meeting in Jacksonville.

On Wednesday, February 4, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding a meeting in Jacksonville to consider reopening hunting of black bears.

We are asking all members to attend the meeting at 8:30 am at the Hyatt Regency, 225 E. Coastline Drive, Jacksonville, and speak up against allowing hunting of black bears; all meeting information can be found here.Without your help, Florida’s small black bear population could soon be hunted for sport. Send an email to alexis.horn@sierraclub.org if you're attending or want more info.

2) Call the Fish and Wildlife Commissioners.

Call them at (850) 488-4676 and tell them to not allow hunting.

3.) Send comments to Commissioners via e-mail.

 Send emails to:  bearcomments@myfwc.com

4) Send comments to Commissioners via the on-line form. 

Click on: http://myfwc.com/contact/fwc-staff/senior-staff/contact-commissioners/
Tell commissioners to keep the hunting ban (see detailed talking points below).

-----------------------------------------------------

Here's the Sierra Club’s position statement on the need to maintain the hunting ban:

The Sierra Club opposes hunting of Florida black bears and continues to support the current FWC policy of capturing or euthanizing bears that pose a threat to public safety.

The Sierra Club supports rule 68A-4.009 FAC, Florida Black Bear Conservation, which expressly states that “No person shall take, possess, injure, shoot, wound, trap, collect, or sell Florida black bears or their parts or to attempt to engage in such conduct except as authorized by the Commission rule or by permit from the Commission” and will oppose any proposed changes to the rule which includes hunting of black bears. Further, the Sierra Club supports several aspects of the Florida black bear management plan as authored by the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) which states the goal is to “Maintain sustainable black bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and people.”

The FWC Florida black bear management plan highlights the specific goal of reducing human-bear conflicts, which the Sierra Club supports. We believe that there are several ways we can reduce human-bear conflicts without the need for opening Florida to hunting of black bears.

We support county level ordinances to require bear proofing of waste and recycling receptacles and waste disposal systems and increased enforcement of current laws, which prohibit the feeding of black bears in Florida. 

We support training local law enforcement personnel in responsible bear management and enforcement practices. This includes training and licensing Bear Response Program agents including ranch managers regarding bear-smart behavior. If adequately trained, local law enforcement could perform certain types of hazing which would also alleviate human-bear conflicts.

We support educating Floridians to have a better understanding of bears and bear conservation measures. We support measures to educate Floridians about not leaving people or pet food outdoors that can attract bears.

We support creating “bear smart communities” and meaningful efforts to implement smart growth management policies to prevent urban/suburban sprawl within black bear habitats. FWC as the state’s wildlife agency has a responsibility to provide professional comments to public land agencies, state transportation and local governments during their planning decisions. Given the aggressive decisions by FWC to work toward black bear population improvements and stabilization, it is more important than ever that professional advice be provided when planning and management decisions are being made.

Further, we believe that FWC should continue to participate in the Florida Forever Acquisition and Restoration Council ranking process and comment on transportation projects. FWC should continue to support and promote Florida Forever Conservation projects, which link habitat corridors and do not isolate bear populations close to urban development.

It is through the aforementioned efforts and other reasonable measures that we can alleviate the need for proposed changes to the Florida Black Bear Conservation rule and take hunting of black bears off the table.