Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Florida Black Bears earn two-year reprieve

A Florida Black Bear. Source: Wikipedia.
Black Bears will be safe from hunters for at least two years thanks to the outcry of Sierrans and Floridians from every corner of the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in April voted 4-3 not to have a black bear hunt in 2017 and 2018. The commission made the decision on April 19, in front of a packed house in the small town of Havana, north of Tallahassee. There were 85 speakers of the 200 in attendance, including Sierra Club Black Bear Committee members Whitey Markle and Darryl Rutz.

The Commission failed to support a pro-hunt motion made by Commissioner Liesa Priddy. Commissioner Ron Bergeron, as he had done in the past, did not support the hunt. In summarizing, the Commission said that science supported a hunt, but the citizens of Florida were not ready. They referred to the black bear as being iconic.

From 2002 to 2014/2015, there was a 53% increase in the number of black bears to 4,050, adjusted for the 2,941 bears killed on Florida roads.

The next meeting of the FWC will be July 10 and 11 in the Kissimmee area, although a specific location has not been given. Check here for updates.

Statement of Darryl Rutz,  Sierra Club Black Bear Committee Chair

All of you that made noise by calling, emailing and contacting officials get the credit for this great wildlife victory.

The Sierra Club and other wildlife organizations worked very hard to get the facts out. Our thanks go out to the members of the Black Bear Committee made up of Whitey Markle, Laura Hensley, Marian Ryan, Drew Martin, Rocky Milburn and Judy Kuchta. 
Even though the Committee will be in hibernation, we need to be vigilant of the activities of our Florida Wildlife. Now that the FWC has stated that the numbers of our manatees and Florida panthers have increased, we need to make sure they have a safe habitat to expand. We love our wildlife and want to see that they remain an integral part of our landscape.

Read more: Florida Officials: No Black Bear Hunt Until at Least 2019, Associated Press