THE FLORIDA BLACK BEAR HUNT – AFTERMATH

Something is bothering me and I just can’t shake this thought, no matter how hard I try. I take a deep breath and try to reflect on last weekend’s tragedy and travesty and desperately reach for even a small iota of reasoning or justification for the Florida black bear massacre. The problem is, I can’t.

A hunt that was ill conceived from the beginning, that was supposed to last for seven days, barely made two days before the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) mercifully put a stop to this. And what irks me is that they are touting the hunt as being so successful, that it only took two days to reach the targeted goal. And worse, many of the talking heads on local television are also using that same word “success” to describe the hunt.

Fortunately, it appears that journalistic integrity is beginning to penetrate this charade, and the true colors of this hunt are beginning to show.

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BY THE NUMBERS

Because this hunt was so horrific, from planning to implementation to result, it was evident and obvious that by early Saturday afternoon, the hunt would not extend beyond the weekend. And original reports on Saturday were projected out to estimate that as many as 450 bear had actually been killed; and potentially 800 to 1,000 for the weekend. That would have had catastrophic implications on the bear population.

On Sunday evening, the FWS called the hunt off and a day later, provided an official reported count of 295. However, this final tally bothers me, and bothers others, because honestly, it doesn’t add up; nor does it consider the aftermath implications. So, let’s discuss that.

In 2012, the FWC published a study entitled “The Florida Black Bear Management Plan”. This is THE handbook, THE playbook, if you will, developed by the FWC to “maintain sustainable black bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and the people.” This study determined that there needed to be at least one subpopulation of at least 1,000 individual bear, as well as smaller subpopulations areas of at least 200 bear each.

So, although the overall “goal” of this hunt was 320 bear (theoretically representing 10% of the bear population), the FWC supposedly analyzed the six core bear management areas and the two remnant areas, and concluded that there were a total of four core areas that would support the bear hunt. That included the Central region (1,300 bear), representing the one sub-population of at least 1,000 bear, and three additional regions: East, North and South. And this is where the math becomes fuzzy.

Although the FWC completed counts of the North and Central bear populations in 2014, the East and South region counts had not been completed at the time of the hunt, and are not expected to be released until 2016. Yet, there was only one FWC Commissioner against the hunt. Ron Bergeron was quoted by the Sun Sentinel in September to say “You should have all your science in place before you hold your first hunt in 21 years, especially when you’re dealing with an icon animal.”

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Based upon this partially completed study, and even with bear counts in the East and South regions last occurring in 2002, the FWC still approved the hunt. So, was there any surprise that the final numbers were vastly inconsistent, suggesting that the FWC really had no clue as to what the actual numbers were, and where the greatest damage would incur, in terms of bear kills?

Region      Orig. Est.     Targeted     Actual     % of Target
East               600                 40               112              280%
North            550                100                23                 23%
Central      1,300                100               139               139%
South            700                  80                 21                26%

These numbers greatly concern me because they either suggest that the FWC really had no idea as to the territorial location of the Florida black bear; or worse, artificially reported a lower kill number so as to avoid even more outrage than currently exists today. As noted in the table above, both the North and South bear management regions only met approximately 25% of their targeted numbers, while the Central region (139%) and East Panhandle region (280%), were so substantially above their targeted numbers.

So, one must wonder if the FWC had any clue whatsoever as to what they were doing. Further, of the 295 bear reported, the FWC confirmed that 207 were killed on Saturday, representing 70% of the total. So one must also ask, why were only 88 bear killed on Sunday? Quite frankly, the inconsistency of these numbers raises a lot of suspicion and statistically, it just does not add up.

According to Politico Florida, there were a total of 3,778 permits issued for this hunt. Subtracting the 207 hunters that got their “bear fix” on Saturday, this left a total of 3,571 hunters still seeking a bear trophy. However, two of the four bear management territories had been closed, so only two remained. Granted, some of those hunters planning to hunt in the closed regions probably opted not to pursue any bear in the North and South regions. After all, their “investment” was a paltry $100 for in-state residents and $300 for out-of-state residents. So the total number of hunters on Sunday probably were less than 3,571.

That said, Sunday’s reported number sounds artificially low. If this number is truly accurate, then we should be thankful that only 88 bears lost their lives. However, I have my doubts. Did the North and South regions truly contain fewer bear than estimated, resulting in less success for the hunters on Sunday? Or did the FWC under-report?

Neither is a good answer for the FWC, but these are the only two plausible explanations. So, if the FWC did not under report, then this raises a red flag question as to the competency of the FWC members…and that may be of a greater concern to the state of Florida residents.

ILLEGAL KILLINGS

Diane Eggeman, FWC’s hunting director, predicted the hunt would claim 183 bears, based upon similar hunts in other states; while Brad McNaughton, the Central Florida Bear Hunters Association president commented that “If you do it by the (Florida) rules, no dogs and no baiting, it won’t be easy. It’ll be a luck deal. They’re sneaky suckers.” he said.

And there is some truth in both of these statements, because both were based upon one critical and important assumption: that hunters would play by the rules. Both of these individuals made these comments based upon a belief and understanding that:

• No baiting would not be involved (Evidence has proved that baiting took place.)

• No killing of mothers with cubs (Politico Florida has analyzed 170 kills thus far and of this total, 102 were female and 28 of those were lactating. Assuming this ratio is representative of the 295 reported total, then it can be assumed a total of 49 lactating females were killed.)

• No killing of cubs over 100 pounds. (Eight of the 170 were less than 100 pounds; and again using the same ratio for the 295 bear kills reported by the FWC, cubs killed is estimated to be approximately 14.)

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Excluding the estimated 63 illegal kills of lactating females and cubs less than 100 pounds, the total number of legal bears killed would be about 232. This number is still significantly higher than the 183 estimated by Ms. Eggeman; however, this does not consider the amount of baiting that apparently existed. And based upon the rapid pace of bears killed on Saturday, there is little doubt that a number of hunters had begun baiting days, if not weeks ahead of the hunt.
The fact of the matter is that had the hunters strictly played by the rules, the carnage would likely have been less. However, this continues to be the problem with the rationalization of hunters being touted as conservationists. Before we can even have an honest debate about this statement, there are a number of assumptions that must be made. Those assumptions are that hunters follow the rules; that honest governments collecting the revenue actually invest this into conservation programs (rather than pocketing the money); and that hunters truly target the oldest and the weakest. The reality is that none of these assumptions are true; and until they are, this will remain a moot discussion.

UNACCOUNTED FOR

On Saturday, a Kayaker sadly discovered a dead bear cub floating in the Suwannee River, a previously unreported casualty of this disaster of a bear hunt. So, let’s discuss these additional casualties and long term impact of this hunt.

Interestingly enough, some protestors of the bear hunt included those that traditionally hunt with dogs, referred to as “hounding”; and they actually view “still hunting” as unethical. Now, many will argue that hounding is equally unethical, however they do make one valid point. Under hounding, the dogs chase the bear up the tree. And from this angle, the hunter can determine the sex of the bear, whether she is lactating, the approximate weight; and the bear is unlikely to suffer as the shooting accuracy is much greater. In other words, it is less likely that an injured bear might escape, only to suffer and succumb to his injuries days or weeks later.

It could be argued that had hounding been implemented, there would have been fewer lactating mothers and cubs killed; and fewer injured bears yet to be found. The problem is, no one knows how many of those casualties may still exist in the wild. I would assume that hunters are required to report any bear shot but not found to the FWC. However, it is questionable whether this rule was followed or not.

Orphaned cubs, according to the FWC are capable of surviving on their own at about 8 months, and with an October hunt, most would have been 8 to 9 months old. Based upon the assumed 49 lactating mothers that were killed, and an average litter of 2.5 bear cubs (typical litter are two to three bear cubs), that would equate to approximately 123 orphaned cubs.

However, while cubs may have the ability to find food and survive on their own, a 70 or 80 pound cub would have a significantly less chance of surviving the attack of a 300 or 400 pound full grown male, than one with a mother there to defend him or her. So, there must be an assumption that the mortality rate of an orphaned cub is substantially higher than one protected by a mother bear. According to http://www.bear.org, the one-year survival rate of a litter of two bear is 88% and three bear is 82%, so an average of about 85%. Without a protective mother bear, the survival rate is certainly less than 85%.

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Additionally, within the last week, there has been an increase in bear sightings in residential neighborhoods, which of course, was completely expected by everyone; with apparent exception of the FWC. There are two reasons for this.

One, the young orphaned bears do not have the same level of foraging experience of their moms. The logical question must be posed as to why they normally stay with their mother for an average of eighteen months if they only require eight months? The answer is simple…that is the ideal period of time that mother nature had intended for these bear to have the best chance of survival.

Because these young bear do not have those years of foraging experience, they are likely to seek more readily available food sources like leftover food in unsecured trash cans. And even the FWC has noted: “Bears typically wander into residential areas because the food they can find there is high in calories and easy to get. Because black bears are “smart enough to be lazy” and take the path of least resistance – the neighborhood. They will spend a few hours in a neighborhood getting into trash cans, bird feeders, or gardens and get the same number of calories.”

Secondly, bear are intelligent animals and quite frankly, many now associate the forest with the carnage that took place last weekend; and now view the residential areas as safer environments. Unfortunately, this will result in further human – bear conflict, and an increase in bear fatalities through future vehicle collisions.

Additionally, the Politico Florida report indicated that 102 of the 170 bear killed were female. Again, using that ratio and applying to the 295 reportedly killed, this equates to a total number of female bear killed to be approximately 177. With an average of 2.5 cubs per litter, this means that there will be about 450 fewer bear cubs born in 2016…and 2017…and 2018. Simply put, any hunt will always have long-term negative implications of future population growth.

So, the official tally provided by the FWC is 295 bears. For reasons already addressed in this article, this figure appears to be suspiciously and artificially low. Add the unaccounted bears that were injured but never found, increase in orphaned cub mortality, increase in bear – human conflict, and loss of future offspring, what is the true death toll resulting from this bear hunt? And what is the long term impact? Whatever that answer is, it is significantly higher than the original target of 320 bear.

A HUNT WITH NO EXPLANATION

Perhaps the greatest anger, outrage and frustration of this bear hunt was in the fact that the FWC never provided an adequate explanation of the hunt in the first place. The Editorial Board of the News-Press.com labeled this hunt as “poorly conceived, poorly coordinated, poorly conducted and the end result was embarrassing for Florida.”

There is no question this is a black spot on the state of Florida. And because this hunt was conducted only three years after the Florida black bear was removed from the threatened species list, with no indicators of over-population issues, no reports of starving bear, an ample food supply and only a handful of isolated incidents of bear attacking humans (with most of those proven to be provoked by humans or human carelessness), this made national as well as international news.

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WHAT WENT WRONG

It would be simpler and easier to address what went right; because in truth, nothing went right, except that the FWC mercifully called a TKO after the second day of the hunt. However, most of the “wrongs” have already been covered in detail in this article, and the myriad of other articles that are now circulating. So “What Went Wrong” will consist of a simple list.

• The FWC consists of real estate developers, attorneys, ranchers and hunters. Not a single commissioner has experience in conservation or biology, and any on the job education obtained as commissioner has been offset by their conflicts of interest. The reality is that the majority of these commissioners would benefit financially if there were no Florida black bear, if there were no Florida Panther, and no other wildlife to stand in their way. Simply put, decisions made by the FWC are made to benefit the FWC commissioners and not the residents of Florida, and they are using the hunters as their pawns.

• The FWC produced a detailed Bear Management Plan in 2012, which was developed to ensure the black bear would never again become a threatened species. A hunting program was never addressed as part of this plan; and this recent hunt represents a significant step backward in what had been a great story of recovery of the black bear.

• Seventy five percent of Florida residents were opposed to this hunt; yet the FWC ignored that 75% of the population, and chose to side with a small minority of the hunting community.

• The FWC choose to move ahead with this hunt before final bear counts were even completed. The completion date was targeted for 2016. Why couldn’t the FWC wait one additional year and establish solid counts of the bear population, then make a decision?

• The FWC did not limit the number of permits sold for the bear hunt. Ultimately, there were 3,778 permits sold…enough to kill every black bear in the state. Obviously, that was not going to happen. However, the FWC certainly put themselves in a vulnerable position that, with a guaranteed two day hunt, the bear population could have been decimated beyond recovery.

• The $100 in-state permit fee and $300 out-of-state permit fees were so low, it failed to generate any significant revenue that truly could have been invested in bear conservation efforts. While many may believe $376,000 is a significant amount of money, it really is not. Charging $2,000 for in-state residents and $3,000 for out-of-state residents, and limiting the number of permits to 2,000 would have generated $5,000,000 in revenue (assuming an equal number of in-state and out-of-state residents). This is real money and could have gone toward a bear proof trash can subsidy program, further education of residents in bear country, and investment in over-passes or under-passes, allowing bear and panthers safe haven and access over busy highways.

• Additionally, more expensive permitting tends to draw in a more experienced hunting crowd. Because they are more experienced; they are less likely to shoot lactating mothers and less likely of shooting cubs. And if there are any ethics to be found in the hunting community, it certainly is more likely to come from the experienced hunters.

• By allowing an unlimited number of hunters, a compacted hunting period, and a two day guarantee, the FWC virtually assured themselves of an unmanageable hunt. Expanding the hunt into multiple weeks and limiting the number of hunters on any given day, this would have helped to manage the hunt count. This would have ensured that both the Eastern Panhandle and Central Florida bear counts remained in check. As it happened, the number of bears killed in the Eastern Panhandle were nearly triple the target and bears killed in the Central region exceeded that target by 40%.

• The FWC held the bear hunt in the first place. Aside from the mistakes referenced above, the simple fact is that there was no justification to even have the bear hunt. The FWC acknowledged that there was not an over-population issue. They acknowledged that natural food sources were ample. They acknowledged that the isolated incidents where bear actually attacked humans was due to human provocation. (Bears are very shy animals, and almost never initiate an unprovoked attack.)

The FWC acknowledged that the most effective way of controlling the human – bear conflict is to educate the public, and to place a greater emphasis of bear proof trash cans in bear country. Yet, the FWC ultimately justified the bear hunt on the basis that it would reduce the human – bear conflict, even though they acknowledged this bear hunt would not accomplish that goal. “We know this isn’t going to work but we are going to do it anyway” appeared to be the mantra of the FWC. Additionally, the majority of the bear killed were in Marion County, and deep in the Ocala National Forest. These were not even the bears that were creating the human-bear conflict in the first place

SO WHAT DID WE LEARN?

In the movie Burn After Reading, the final scene captured a conversation between the CIA Superior and one of his officers. The CIA Superior posed the question “What did we learn Palmer?” to which Palmer answered “I don’t know sir.” The Superior responded back “ I don’t bleeping know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.” The officer’s only response was “Yes sir”, to which the Superior commented “I’m bleeped if I know what we did.”

The majority of Florida’s citizens did not want this hunt in the first place. After the black eye that the FWC has inflicted upon the state with this embarrassing, unjustified disaster of a bear hunt, I only hope that the FWC will bow to the will of the people…and to common sense…and to intelligent conservation and also never have this hunt again.

However, this assumes that the people making the original decision to hold this hunt in the first place have now developed the knowledge and intelligence not to repeat this mistake. Unfortunately, the only way to ensure that this does not happen again would be to remove the entire Commission, and appoint members without conflicts of interest, and with the proper backgrounds and education necessary to make decisions that protect Florida’s wildlife and not destroy it.

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47 thoughts on “THE FLORIDA BLACK BEAR HUNT – AFTERMATH

  1. joni Morrison

    I agree the number of bears actually killed is not known ! I also agreed to remove the entire Commission, and appoint members without conflicts of interests, and with a mind set to protect Florida’s wildlife not to destroy it. How soon can this be done ! What can I do to move their removal quickly ?

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    1. Joni – I can at least assure you that people are not accepting this action lying down, and we are going to do everything we can to force that action. Unfortunately, since the Governor appointed them, only the Governor can remove them from office. However, the state has gotten a black eye from this incident nationally and internationally. It is our job to ensure the truth is known and spread. The Governor needs to be held accountable for appointing Commission members that clearly have a conflict of interest and an agenda that is not to the benefit of Florida wildlife. If he Governor fears losing a re-election bid, or that negative press that will impact his legacy, he may be forced to make changes. It will not happen as quickly as we would like, but we are determined to make change.

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      1. Carol Cassels

        Gov Scott is on his second term and cannot serve another consecutive term, so there is no way he will serve a third term, unless he sits out a term and then is re-elected, per FL rules. He hasn’t been a favorite so I doubt he would be re-elected even if he decided to come back.

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    2. Bill Wilson

      Nothing is perfect in our world but as a hunter I support hunting and I do eat what I kill. As for the bear count I know the area, east panhandle take my word there are many and I do mean many bears in this area. Springhill road Tallahassee municipal airport this area up and down the forest is full of bears . How do we balance it? You guys seem to have the ideas but are you buying bear prof trash cans? any answers? thanks a hunter.

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      1. Hi Bill. Always appreciative to receive feedback from hunters as well. I have always believed there is a profound difference between hunting for food and trophy hunting, but I know the frustration many felt is simply in the manner the whole hunt was handled by the FWC. And in fact, the bear proof trash cans are actually the answer that the FWC suggested on their website, so I certainly can’t take credit for that. Who is going to pay? Yes. As we know, human nature is that people are never going to follow sound advice 100% of the time and some people can’t afford them. That was the reason I suggested that if you are going to have this hunt, why are you only charging $100 for a permit. If someone really wants to shoot a bear, charge $1,000, charge 2,000 for a permit. Then dedicate that revenue toward subsidizing purchase of the trash cans. If some people fall below an income line, maybe they can get theirs for free. Now, I haven’t priced these trash cans, nor know how many people are potentially impacted, so if $3, $4 million was raised, I don’t know how far that would go. But, certainly further than the $350,000 that was raised.

        The hunting – anti hunting vitriol has gotten very nasty and unfortunately, has made it almost impossible for people to have a civilized debate on the issue. I know there are many people that don’t believe in hunting at all. Of course, unless you are truly 100% vegan, you are only a hypocrite to say that. At the same time, I understand the compassion and ethical arguments. I have no desire to hunt, but I try to stay open minded about the whole issue, because you can’t lump every hunter and every hunt into the same group…nor can you do that to non-hunters either. Let’s face it…hunting has been around as long as man has been around, and will always be around. From my perspective, it is striking a balance of fairness and in particular when talking about endangered species. If you read any more of my stuff, you will see my passion against hunting of endangered and threatened species, anger about canned lion hunting, inhumane treatment of animals, not a lot of respect for SCI because of some of the lies they promulgate, and hunting as conservation argument. However, you will note in my last article, I made the point that hunting as conservation theoretically can be accomplished, assuming certain conditions. And I too probably made the one faux pau I am very much against…that is generalizing. And in my comment about conservation, I made the comment that hunters play by the rules…they don’t. That is a very unfair statement, because this probably follows the 80/20 rule where 80% do, but in life, we tend to focus on the bad apples and then generalize that across the board. Just in the way you present your comments, you are probably one of the many that follow the rules, that have a respect for nature and the environment. But there are a lot of people I know that were monitors at the various check stations that were really impacted emotionally from this event. And they were only there because they did not trust the FWC. And quite frankly, that is the bigger picture. You can’t really be critical of the hunters. They did what the FWC allowed. But to have the hunt before you even finish counting the bear (which would have only been a year delay), to sell unlimited permits and at such a cheap price, and establish an unlimited 2-day period…do this
        Is without truly providing an adequate justification to hunt an animal only 3 years after removal from threatened species status, just more questions than answers. And with a board comprised of developers and ranchers, this is a concern for all Floridians, even hunters. Because if this commission had their way, I think they would love to bulldoze through the remaining forest land and convert to residential developments, shopping centers and cattle land. That should also be a concern to hunters as well. Thank you for visiting my site and reading my articles. Your comments are welcome anytime.

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      2. Richard

        I like to think some of the money raised would be used for bear proof trash cans. But with our corrupt government I’m not so sure.

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      3. Isn’t that the truth? My personal opinion is that when the FWC is comprised of developers and ranchers that really do not care about the welfare of any of Florida’s wildlife (and that laissez faire attitude is truly a slap in the face of non-hunters as well as hunters), none of the money will be invested in bear proof trash cans. If it is, it will be just enough to present a facade to the general public that they are doing something, when in fact they are not. It probably will not happen, but the entire FWC Commission needs to be removed and replaced by people that actually have a background commisserate with conservation and without the conflict of interest that these Commission members obviously have.

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      4. em

        To be honest I think bear hunters all deserve to get trich, but I thought you comment was actually pretty valid. I support hunting prey animals like deer, turkey, etc, its really good for forest management. The thing I have to disagree with you on though is that bears and other predators populations don’t “control” they adjust their populations based on the resources available themselves, a female black bear won’t even go into heat if there’s not adequate food availability that year. Its important to remember that it wasn’t too long ago that like-minded “conservationists” were calling for mass shootings of eagles, hawks, and owls. Just because the FWS says a hunt is a good idea doesn’t mean it is, Your completely right about the solution, if wildlife management agencies actually wanted to make a effective management policy they’d be using the money they get from other types of hunting licenses to provide bear-proof bins to at-risk areas, but they’ve made plenty of bad calls in the past and I suspect they will continue.- past wildlife management major

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      5. Excellent comments and nature never stops to amaze me…everything is so perfectly designed and functions so perfectly without humans to screw it up. Female bear “won’t even go into heat if there is not enough adequate food availability”. Too bad humans don’t seem to possess that same inate ability to make decisions that are net / net in terms of environmental impact. Unfortunately, we often seem to view animals as nuisances to our lifestyle…bear because they dig through people’s garbage if not properly secured; mountain lions and wolves for attacking livestock; beavers for damming up streams. Yet, one reason we have such a deer overpopulation problem in so many parts of the country is that we have decimatated or entirely eliminated the apex predators — the wolf and the panther, that would help maintain the deer population. As you noted, mass shootings of the apex birds…the hawks, eagles and owls. I just watched a 4 minute video on YouTube the other day on how the introducton of the Wolves into Yellowstone have resurrected so much of the land that was decimated by deer. By reducing the deer population, the deer relocated to safer parts of the park. Thatmeant the valley that they had previously used for grazing began to regenerate…the trees started growing again…producing berries and attracting bear. This also attracted more birds to the area and all animal and plant life increased. What a great story to show how critical every animal and plant in the ecosystem plays an important part. My biggest problem / concern is that the FWC Commissioners do not have the background and knowledge necessary to be in the positions they are in; and worse than that, they also have a major conflict of interest. Contrary to what many anti-hunt people may think, I don’t believe the FWC was siding with the hunters in the bear hunt. These Commissioners seem committed to do what is best for them, and whether this helps or hurts hunters or helps or hurts the non-hunting crowd, that is irrelevant and just a coincidence if it helps or hinder. Replacement of the current FWC commissioners with pre-requisite backgrounds (which means no real estate developers, power company representatives, or ranchers) would be the 1st step to steer Florida in the right direction. There would then be ample opportunity for the hunting community and non-hunters to openly debate. Those hunters that are open minded should recognize that the outrage by non-hunters was specific to the black bear. Historically, there have never been any signficant complaints related to the hunting of deer and other traditional prey, nor complaints about fishing. That should tell hunters that the anti-hunting crowd is not exuding some type of irrational behavior. The anger and outrage was directed at the FWC and in the way that they managed the hunt.

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  3. Anthony Wynne-Roberts

    This is a very well written and accurate article that should be read by all Floridians. (including the FWC and Governor Scott ).Most of the salient points in this article were brought to the attention of the FWC over and over again before the hunt.,and as noted,were ignored.There is no doubt that this hunt was to satisfy the FWC private agenda,Most people feel that it was for the acquisition of land for land development in Florida.This hunt was a disgrace both, as it was conceived and how it was managed and the FWC should be held directly responsible.
    Other than Ron Burgeron ,who at least had the intelligence to comment on the timing of the hunt,the members of this commission should be dismissed and experts in wildlife conservation ,be appointed in their places.

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    1. Yes, unfortunately, I’m not introducing any earth-shattering thoughts or ideas that have not already been presented to the FWC. It is clear that they have their own agenda. Problem with that is that they are supposed to represent the good people of Florida and to ensure protections and conservation of Florida’s wildlife. Clearly, they are not doing either, and as you noted, the entire board needs to be removed and replaced. Why would you comprise a wildlife & conservation commission to represent real estate developers, ranchers, and hunters. And the Governor had an opportunity to get it right. One of the commissioners / real estate developers stepped down from his position. Who did the Governor appoint to replace that position? Another real estate developer. Pretty much tells the tale.

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      1. A Hunter

        I don’t think you can be against a Trophy Hunt and advocate for a higher ($2000) fee for a Bear Permit. I don’t know of many subsistence hunters who would or could afford this. It then becomes a Trophy hunt due to the high cost.

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  4. sandra

    I am glad to have read this article which telling me of many facts that I did not know before.
    I disagree with the Hunting from the get-go. If you have not learned of how many bear counts are, how did you know how many should be killed?.

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    1. Yes. before you can even get into the discussion of the ethics of hunting, there must be a sound and logical reason of having the hunt in the first place. When you obviously don’t know how many bear there are or geographically where they are located, how can you even talk about having a hunt period?

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  5. Safari Club International had their attorney’s present at the hearing that took place to ask the judge to give a stay for the hunt. Why was Safari Club International ( a trophy hunting club ) involved and I wonder as well how deeply they was involved in influencing the commission on their decision ? Not alot is being said about their presence at the hearing nor about their being involved at all. We all know how shady the group is and it comes as no surprise that FWC’s board of commissioners would stoop to the level of SCI however FWC does has wording regarding hunting for trophy animals in the State and it requires all animal takes be used for food. I guess this death panel for Florida’s wildlife will stop at nothing to fuel the agenda they was put in place for.

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    1. Excellent point Kelly. I ran across a great article talking about SCI being founded by poachers…I.e. The original founders were charged and fined with illegally killing endangered species or other protected wildlife. You are on point that someone needs to expose that, because they really had no business at the FWC meeting, other than promoting their self serving agenda.

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  6. Louie Dula

    This unnecessary slaughter of our bears was all because the FWC is nothing more than a hunt club. HORRIBLE people that shouldn’t even be working there, they’d rather kill animals them help them.
    I read that OVER 100 lactating females were murdered. So if each had three cubs then there’s at least 300 orphaned cubs out there that are dying of starvation. A monitor said all then cubs she saw were less than three months old left to die alone and afraid with no Mothers to protect them. Add also the cubs the hunters illegally murdered and left out there. Add also the illegally murdered bears left out there. The next day skinned bear carcasses were found in the woods.
    Add all the poor wounded bears that got away and are now out there dying a slow agonizing death….And the highest count of all would be from the private lands and that’s where MOST of the hunters went because they knew they could kill as many as they wanted to. They illegally used dogs and baited the bears. They were “requested” to drive to check points and give their kill numbers…do you REALLY think most of those hunters did?!!!! No way.!!!! So add up what I just said and the total has to be at least ONE THOUSAND or more. The FWC will NEVER give the correct numbers.
    This was nothing but a MASSACRE. One hunter admitted to killing 16 bears to a reporter. Cubs underweight were given back to the hunters. All the FWC did was give them warnings. The FWC is as corrupt as our Governor.

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  7. Neil

    Rick Scott`s political party is critically losing future votes by the day. Even people who do not disapprove of hunting are extremely angry over the way the 2015 Florida bear hunt was conducted without integrity. This is an emotionally charged situation that many people do not take lightly. Believe when I say average people who never get involved in politics are taking notice and will be heading to the polls.Tens of thousands of people are starting to mount a motion to change the current power hierarchy through twitter and social media. He should take immediate action to resolve the current bear habitat issues or his political career is going to suffer a tremendous downswing.

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    1. I think that is a great point, because this really does go beyond hunting. Even if some Florida citizens don’t have a strong opinion on the hunt itself, they should be able to see that this Administration disregards the majority opinion. Hopefully, the black bear will represent that turning point where the residents of Florida begin to take back their state.

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      1. A Hunter

        I keep reading that the Majority did not favor this hunt but doesn’t a minority deserve a seat at the table also? Werent same sex marriage bans voted on and approved by “a majority” and then struck down by the supreme court?

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  8. Bill Stokes

    The bear hunt is supposedly going to be an annual affair despite the idiocy and incompetence of the first one. Since the opinion of the populace is irrelevant to the Governor and his FWC cronies and the buck stops with them, what is it going to take to get through to these tone deaf, clueless appointees and their Governor?

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  9. A Perfect Storm

    Just curious – and this may sound naive , but can a class action for “some legal reason” be brought against the FWC , the governor or the state? Or even individually on some legal grounds?

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    1. Good question. I do know that there are a lot of people out there turning over every rock and looking at every avenue as it relates to (1) ensuring this hunt does not happen again and (2) if there are any legal remedies to hold people accountable for what happened this year. My read of the statutes (although I am not an attorney) is that the legal authority in which to authorize a bear hunt is for either scientific study or due to a nuisance bear in which all other non-lethal remedies had been exhausted. The FWC never attempted to argue any scientific benefit to even killing one bear. As far as the second part is concerned, there were a few isolated human – bear conflict issues, but there appeared that there were no non-lethal remedies even attempted; and even if there were, I understood the statute to mean that lethal force would be used only against those bears specifically involved in the conflict, not the entire bear population.

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  10. Publish all the contact info of the Governor and the FWC, names, pictures political affiliations, bio, email, phone number etc and post on facebook along with the story. Ask that the info be shared so it goes viral. Its an outrage. Public pressure is an amazing motivator. Look what happened to the dentist that hunted Cecil the lion. Expose them.

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    1. Carol H

      I’ve cancelled my vacation there and also written to the major attractions we planned to visit. Florida can absolutely not survive without tourism.

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      1. And that is a really good idea to write the attractions and let them know the reason you will not be taking future vacations in Florida. I believe others should do the same. Excellent idea.

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  11. Carol H

    Sounds like this was a debacle conducted by clueless fools to appease “hunters” who really just don’t give a damn about anything beyond their next kill. Great example of people who have more money than brains…and all under the eye of Rick Scott. My family and I vacation in Florida twice a year…until now..and I urge others to take their tourist money elsewhere. It’s still Florida’s biggest industry.

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    1. Yes, I have heard many people state the same. The Governor clearly has shown a disegard for Florida’s good citizens and doesn’t care that 75% of the population polled was against the hunt. It’s sad then that it may take the voices of the non-citizens voting with their wallets and pocket books that force change.

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    1. I’ve said the same thing. I’m also ashamed to be an American when 60% of lions killed for trophy purposes are at the hands of American citizens. We are the most affluent country in the world, yet rather than investing our time and effort on positive change, we spend $350 million a year on Halloween costumes for our pets and spend our energy on activities such as trophy hunting that does nothing for conservation or helping our fellow man (or woman). If the FWC wants to argue that this activity generated revenue for conservation, then they are basically saying that a bear’s life is worth $100, because that is all they charged for an in-state hunting permit. Sad day indeed.

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  12. Bill Stokes

    Despite Scott’s otherworldly, android lack of sensitivity and compassion, there is a weak spot. His eternal pitching to get more people to Florida (another indication of his clueless take on Florida, as if we need another huge influx of people) is based on his sugar coating the state. If out of state concerns boycotted Florida until the bear hunt was outlawed, that might just resonate with this mechanized robot who lacks any significant knowledge of whats really good for OUR state. Nothing is more important to Scott than Florida’s public image and some semblance of his success as the Guv. This unconscionable act has received national press so the plethora of groups that are opposed to this madness should certainly be candidates for polling their memberships and sending Scott the message that Florida is on the black list until bears are protected and the FWC Commission is replaced with a balance of conservationists, scientists, and professionals with relevant credentials vs. cronies with conflicts directly opposed to conservation. Panthers are next because one of the Commission members has lost a few calves. Since the citizenry doesn’t matter, maybe the out-of-state dollars will.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Tina Pumper

    I just think it’s disgusting to hunt an animal for no real purpose other than to hang it’s head on your wall!… what a waste of a beautiful animal… if there were numbers showing that Bears were over-populated, starving, attacking people, ect, it would have gave this a little more justification… but there weren’t…
    to orphan cubs, leave animals wounded, and to kill for the pure thrill of killing is just sick in my book!

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    1. Tina – yes, that is the rub. The FWC has failed the good citizens of Florida. They are not being held accountable for their decisions, which should be based upon sound fact and at times, should reflect the desire of the majority, not the minority.

      My personal opinion is an agenda to clear the forests for development or for more cattle land, so that the commissioners themselves, who are real estate developers, and cattle ranchers will personally gain from this. It was a politically motivated, and I think they are using hunters and anti-hunters as pawns and hope the two sides get so distracted fighting each other, that the FWC will continue to pursue their personal agendas without notice.

      Yes, I have a problem with hunting just to hunt. These are live beings same as you and I. They are intelligent creatures. They have hearts, they have lungs, they have souls. They think. They feel. Yes, most of us are more intelligent than bears (I say most of us), but beyond intelligence, there isn’t that much of a difference between humans and animals. So to kill just to kill…and then argue it is some type of conservation measure, I don’t buy it. Now, hunting for food…that is a little different. And if these bear were terrorizing the residential areas and all other measures had been exhausted, there might be a situation where euthanizing a bear might be the only option. But we are not there yet, and other measures should be enacted first. That should ALWAYS be the last, desperate measure.

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  14. OMG listen to you people! So many ridiculous statements in this post!
    Liberals want to get rid of guns and use the “If it only saved one life it would be worth it!” line.

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/13/us/florida-bear-attack/

    Well there’s your one life!

    I’m not a hunter.
    Should they be able to just up and go kill bears. Honestly I would rather they didn’t. Could there have been a valid reason for the bear hunt? Maybe.

    My point is, is that most people here seem to be leading with their hearts and not with their heads.

    Murder a bear? LOL Cannot help but compare bears and native americans? LOL ok,

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    1. Please eloborate on the ridiculous statements in my article. I am a responsible writer who is very diligent in researching and verifying my facts and basing commentary on those facts. So, I would like an opportunity to defend my work but cannot based upon vague comments. I love to debate opposing views, but can’t when the opposing view is simply that my ideas are stupid or ridiculous. Please present facts, or at least expound upon your opinion, and let’s debate. There is nothing wrong for having a, appreciation, respect and passion for other living beings; a desire for wildlife to be around for future generations, and an expectation that the FWC would be more transparent and honest in their operations.

      The 2014 bear attack was only one of two in that year and two in 2013. Should we also push to ban all driving because people are killed in wrecks every day? Not down playing the attacks, but to make decisions based upon one or two isolated incidents is a slippery slope. Wouldn’t you agree?

      Also, just for the record, I am not a liberal. I have conservative views on most issues, but am a compassionate conservative and believe that we most speak for those that can’t speak for themselves. I am also not an anti-NRA, anti-gun supporter. I believe people should l have the right to own guns; because if there were a ban on guns, only the bad guys would have them. Guns don’t kill. People do, and the bigger problem is that there is a stigma associated with mental health, such that mental health services have been greatly reduced around the country. So much of our gun violence, could be greatly reduced through increased access to mental health services and a reasonable background process that would ensure a better job of keeping guns out of convicted felons. But that is another article for another day.

      And I will say to you and say to myself that generalizing people of similar beliefs into a single caterory is a dangerous thing. All hunters are not the same, nor are animal rights activists. When we pre-judge and generalize, we essentially eliminate any possibilty of honest debate and discussion. I welcome any future commentary you may wish to present.

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  15. A Hunter

    As a Hunter I realize that I and those who oppose this hunt generally want the same thing in the end – wild places and wild things to inhabit them. That is what we should be working together towards.

    As a Hunter I also have knowledge that everything is not as it appears on the surface. One example is that the number of Bears taken in the South could have been low due to the hunting leases not permitting Bear hunting. High priced hunting leases are dominant in the Southern part of the State and there are a small amount of smaller private hunting land and public Wildlife Management Areas more common in the Central and Northern areas. Don’t take everything for face value.

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    1. All are good points you have made. Regarding minority & majority rule, everyone should have a voice and I recognize that majority rule does not apply every time. The problem I have, and I know that others have is the FWC’s handling of the entire hunt from start to finish. The issue was not that the FWC did not adopt the majority’s position; is that they didn’t even give the respect of considering the protests. They effectively just wrote off the respondees as being animal rights activist and therefore, not realistic or rational. Reasonable justification was presented to the FWC, but they chose to ignore this. And truthfully, even though I made the comment in the article, I don’t think the FWC was ruling on behalf of the 25% that did want the hunt either. The FWC has their own agenda and are simply doing what they want to do, regardless if hunters, non-hunters, or the residents of Florida did or did not want this hunt.

      I know that most people against the hunt would be against the hunt, no matter what the circumstances. And while I don’t really understand the passion that drives hunting, I try not to pre-judge those that do. I am a little more open-minded and there are many animals where the population is so plentiful, there is absolutely no risk whatsoever that those animals would ever be a threatened species. However, from my observation, it is obviouis that there is some type of political agenda within the FWC to authorize this hunt, and there is a clear agenda and conflict of interest of the current FWC Commission. The idea that they are now trying to figure out a way to remove the Florida panther from the endangered species list, when at most there are only 200 in the state is assinine. But, this tells me that they don’t really care…they are not concerned about the wildlife.

      And like you said, both hunters and non-hunters desire “wild places and wild things to inhabit them.” I believe that there is common ground. There will always be those on the extremes that don’t believe hunting should exist at all and there are those on the other end of the spectrum that could care less as to if a species is endanged or threatened (like the African lion). However, most people are somewhere in between the two. I can tell you that the frustration of the non-hunter / animal activists is more with the FWC, and not the hunters. The hunters receive the bulk of the abuse because they are on the front line, and the animal community often views the “hunter’s pose” above the animal as almost a “blank-you” directed at those that don’t hunt. I’m sure that most hunters don’t intend that, but perception often trumps reality and that does tend to add fuel to the fire.

      In terms of the comments you made regarding the southern part of the state, this is good information that most people probably don’t know. The FWC, I would assume knows this, but they are doing a horrible job of transparency;and perhaps if they communicated this information more effectively, people might be willing to be more accepting of future hunts. But, the fact that you approve a hunt before even completing population counts that were last updated 13 years ago just makes no sense. And they could have waited just one year and presented hard facts for 2016.

      And perhaps a $2,000 permit fee might be too substantial for most hunters. But my point is that if this hunt was truly part of a conservation effort, then they are not raising enough money to help improve the human – bear conflict issue. My understanding is that even the state raised $350,000 in this hunt, the 2016 budget is already set and only a portion of that $350,000 will be spent on bear conservation. So again, I question the true agenda of the FWC. As you said, don’t take everything face value. And I apply that same comment to the FWC. Both hunters and non-hunters should be pressuring a change in the make up of the FWC. Ranchers and developers should not be sitting on this board. The citizens of Florida deserve better.

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  16. J.G.

    Come on this is a bunch of BS, Florida’s bear population is more than substantial enough to support a hunt that was as controlled and monitored as the FWC did with this one. In fact the FWC have already released a statement that they believe they have grossly under calculated the bear population in Florida. The FWC did an excellent job with this hunt and they should be congratulated for all the efforts and work that allowed hunters in Florida to take part in something that 25 years ago was close to being lost to Florida forever. We are right now in a fight in Florida to keep our way of life, in the glades, in hunting, fishing and just enjoying the outdoor life Florida has to offer. These stories are a bunch of bullshit propaganda by anti hunters and do nothing more than further the cause of those who would do away with all the things we outdoor enthusiasts hold dear, these bears were harvested at a time when no cubs would have been so small as to not be able to take care of themselves. Just because a female bear is lactating, does not mean she has cubs that depend on that for their only source of food. A female will remain with her offspring for as long as two years and sometimes longer, just because a female is producing milk does not mean there are cubs dependant on her to survive. There was a 100lb limit and a rule in place to keep hunters from shooting any mother with cubs in tow… The bear population in florida needs to be controlled albeit carefully but it does need to be controlled, they are territorial, they will and have already become a problem in populated areas as they expand in search of easy meals, they are very adaptable and the overall health of the population will suffer far more if left unchecked. I don’t know who wrote this POS article but I highly doubt they have 35 years of bear hunting and experience studying black bears and their habitat, but I know I do and I can tell you this was a good thing for Florida, those 302 bears brought in over $350,000 of which a large part of that money will go toward enhancing wildlife habitat and allowing for healthy expansion of the current bear population. My only regret is that I missed the opportunity to contribute by getting a tag and participating.

    Like

    1. I respect your opinion and appreciate your comments. I do take offense at referring to my article as a POS because I work very hard on researching my subject matter and any comments made, I try to support with factual content. You are correct that I do not have 35 years of experience hunting and studying bears, and you will also note that I don’t have a problem publishing critiques of my articles. No problems at all if you disagree with me.

      However, the bears weren’t harvested and they weren’t “taken”. Harvesting is what you do with an apple or blueberry crop. Fruits and vegetables are harvested, animals are killed. Let’s don’t sugar coat the act, and let’s call it for what it is. Killing, not harvesting. And give me a hunter that admits they hunt because they enjoy hunting…not because it is some type of act of conservation. That may be a by-product in certain situations, but it is not the reason hunters hunt. When hunters use the word “harvest”, it sounds as if they aren’t sure if killing an animal is okay, as if they are questioning the act themself. Give me a hunter that states matter of factly, “I killed that bear and by God, I enjoyed it.” That is a hunter I will have the utmost respect for. And frankly, I have no problem with that.

      Do I hunt? No, I have no interest. And for me, ethically I can’t justify this. That is not judgmental against others because each of us has a standard of ethics we live by. Others may not have a problem wtih this. However, there were a number of hunters that also disagreed with this particular hunt. They compared this to hunting your own dog…that these bear practically walked right up to the hunters because they had no reason to fear them. It was like shooting monkey in a barrel.

      If you read my article carefully, you will note that although there are certainly parts of this article that are critical of hunters, the primary critique is directed at the FWC. And unfortunately, you are correct about the Florida way of life being threatened. However, that threat is not who you think it is. If you believe the FWC is firmly behind the hunting community, think again. The FWC is behind their own personal self-interests of real estate development and ranching. They care nothing for the wildlife and they care nothing for the fishing. My opinion is that the entire commission needs to be replaced with those that do not have a conflict of interest, and have a background in conservation and wildlife. It’s a shame that this is an appointed position, becuase if you have 35+ plus years of experience, you are probably the ideal person to sit on the Commission. There are those out there that don’t believe there should be any hunting of any animal. I have never taken that position, and acknowledge that hunting will always be a part of life of many people. However, I will not commend the FWC on a job well done. As many newspapers have noted, this entire hunt was poorly managed from start to finish and I stand by that statement as well. Also, when you look at the 2016 FWC budget, don’t be surprised if only a part of that $350,000 is actually invested toward bear conservation efforts.

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  17. I fully agree with Libralionheart’s reply above where you state this was perhaps a politically motivated hunt. For whatever reason FWC is seeking to be liked by gun owner/ hunters and it concerns me they used bears as their pawns. Specifically since, in NC and TN this was a poor year for food, I can only guess it is in Florida as well therefore the orphaned cubs are ill-equipped to hibernate much less survive. So glad I no longer live in Florida.

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    1. That’s a good question on the bear cubs. I saw one YouTube video of a Florida resident talking about ongoing development reducing the bear habitat and access for food. But I had not heard from any official sources concerning food shortages. Something else to dig into. And I also wondered about hibernation. I know that this is in the bear DNA, but the temps don’t drop that much in Florida. So do they still hibernate there?

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  18. I live in Western Pa. We have an abundance of black bears that are hunted yearly when in season. The Pennsylvania Game commission does a great job with it’s conservation and care of our wild population . There is a publication that is published by the game commission which can be purchased for a small fee. It has stories, pictures, educational articles , graphs and statistics and is very informative. the publication is titled, ” Pennsylvania Game News ” They do a outstanding job to enforce our game laws and to make sure our
    wild population is safe and protected.

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    1. That is excellent. I think I will go on their website and purchase that booklet. Honestly, the 200 page black bear report published by the FWC is also a very good manual…but you kind of need to follow your own guidelines. If the FWC had done this, the outrage would probably not exist, or at least be substantially lessened.

      Like

  19. Pingback: THE FLORIDA BLACK BEAR HUNT – AFTERMATH | Libra Lionheart | The Beacon of Hope

  20. Pingback: Thank a Hunter: Florida FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski and the Death of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation | Daily Kumquat

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