Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sierra Club Florida's Statements on Bear Hunting to the FWC

The following testimonies in opposition to opening black bear hunting in Florida were presented to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its meeting in Sarasota on June 24, 2015:

Frank Jackalone - Sierra Club Florida Staff Director

Sierra Club is not opposed to all hunting.  For example, exotic invasive wildlife like wild hogs and Burmese pythons that destroy our native ecosystems need to be trapped and hunted.
But Florida black bears are not exotic animals.  They are natural inhabitants of Florida, and they are bright, intelligent mammals that occupied this land before people did.  It is immoral to talk about “harvesting’ black bears.  Shame on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for suggesting that Florida black bears should be harvested!

The Commission has clearly given up on acquiring additional conservation lands needed to fully restore and protect Florida black bears and panthers.  I believe this is because developers are demanding the same land needed for black bear and panther habitat.  FWC’s plan to reduce the black bear population is all about economic growth and development; it’s not about the rights of hunters.

The proposal to hunt black bears is part of a larger assault on Florida’s wildlife and habitat.  It is no coincidence that state officials are simultaneously proposing black bear hunts; habitat restriction and euthanasia to reduce the number of panthers; leasing of our state parks for cattle grazing, timber harvesting, cell phone towers, hunting, mining; and the Legislature’s blatant refusal to use the majority of Amendment One revenue to fund the Florida Forever land acquisition program.

Hunting of Florida black bears is a vile proposal.  This is a tragic day for Florida’s wildlife and for millions of Floridians who love nature and want to protect our state’s wildlife.  Sierra Club will use every legal and political means necessary to challenge and oppose this plan if the Commission votes to approve it today.

I ask you to delay this decision until you present a full set of alternative options to the public.

Alexis Horn - Sierra Club Panther Habitat Campaign Coordinator

We ask that the FWC at least delay the decision on opening bear hunting until all options are scientifically vetted and presented to the public. Each option in bear management should delve into the positive and negative environmental impacts of the proposed actions, and provide a list of alternatives that may be chosen instead of hunting.

Even though it is indisputable that bear populations have grown (the whole point of protecting them), the 13-year-old population data does not give the full account on where bears currently stand. Opening a hunt is premature at this time. We are concerned that not all the appropriate tools are being deployed to manage the population. Hunting is an extreme response to an increasing population that was so recently under protective status. Without the science of a full, completed population study, a hunt is unjustifiable.

Fifty-one bears have been euthanized this year, and 266 were killed by cars in 2014 (2015 data is not yet available). The population will undoubtedly suffer due to these mounting deaths, and we’ll be right back to where we were when bears were first placed on the threatened list. There are just too many unknowns at this point to justify a hunt, and the people of Florida have overwhelmingly asked the FWC to deny this hunt. At the FWC meeting, 60 members of the public, including top non-profit officials, testified that they do not want this hunt, while only fourteen people were for it.

FWC should be focusing on education, trash management, and habitat protection. FWC’s own reports have shown that human-bear conflicts are reduced up to 95% when bear-proof trashcans are implemented. That 70% of bear related calls state that a bear is in a person’s yard or trash, and that only 1% of bear calls concerned a threat to human safety. Only through education, fines for those who feed bears, and protecting environmentally sensitive lands will bears be managed effectively. Without habitat protection and acquisition, bears will suffer, and human-bear conflicts will increase.  

Without all the updated Bear Management Unit numbers and the science to prove that Florida's unique black bear population can withstand the cumulative effects of road-kill, euthanasia, and FWC’s new One-Strike policy, no form of hunting should be considered. The focus should be on preventing human-bear conflicts, protecting habitat and ensuring species  safe movement, and humanely managing a species that was so recently on the threatened species list.


Please contact Frank Jackalone at with any questions.