No action needed at this time.
Unfortunately, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Governor Rick Scott are allowing the hunt to move forward starting in October. AWI and its coalition partners are examining legal and legislative options to stop the hunt.
On June 24, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will vote on a proposal to allow trophy hunting of black bears in Florida. The proposal would allow for hundreds of bears to be killed, starting in October of this year. The proposal is misguided for several reasons, including the fact that the state does not know how many black bears live in Florida and the hunting methods proposed are cruel and unnecessary.
The Florida black bear is a subspecies of the American black bear, which historically ranged throughout most of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Habitat loss due to development greatly reduced the species' range and still poses a major threat (along with vehicle strikes) to bear populations. These threats were so severe that the Florida black bear was listed by the state as a threatened species until just three years ago. The state, however, has not done a complete, state-wide bear census since 2002 (the survey that was recently released only looked at two of the state's seven subpopulations). This is very problematic, as the FWC now proposes a hunt without scientific evidence that the population is fully recovered.
The proposal also inexplicably opens up bear hunting to methods such as baiting and bear hounding (chasing bears with dogs). The proposal states that there will be "no taking bears over bait." Yet it sanctions the practice of drawing bears to game feeding stations with pelletized feeds, flavored corns and other grains, and supplements marketed for deer. Although the proposal states that there will be "no taking of bears with dogs," it explicitly allows for dogs on leash to trail wounded bears. This arguably makes it easy for hounders to chase a bear with dogs, especially given enforcement issues. Furthermore, cruel hunting methods such as bows, crossbows, revolvers, and muzzleloaders have been listed as acceptable weapons for use on them.
This hunt is also completely unnecessary for wildlife management. The FWC is currently permitted to kill any "nuisance" bears that are causing issues in suburban neighborhoods, and the agency has admitted that this hunt would not reduce human-bear conflicts because the bears that would be killed live in the deeper, forested areas, not in urban areas.
Public opposition to the proposed hunt has been strong. Over 30,000 comments opposing the hunt have been submitted to the agency. A statewide poll also found that over two-thirds of Florida residents oppose opening the state to bear hunting. However, it is clear that the FWC has made up its mind to allow the hunt in spite of public opinion.
Suggested talking points are as follows:
- I strongly urge you to reject the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) proposal to open the state of Florida to bear hunting. The proposal does not comport with science-based, responsible wildlife management, and a majority of the public opposes the hunt.
- Research has shown (and the FWC has admitted) that this proposed hunt will not reduce human-bear conflicts, as the FWC is already permitted to control "nuisance" bears that wander into neighborhoods, and this hunt would target bears that live in deeper forested areas.
- Nonlethal conflict prevention programs more effectively address any issues that arise from bears entering neighborhoods. This includes assisting communities with adopting bear-proof trash programs and doing educational outreach about avoiding behavior that attracts wildlife, such as leaving pet food outside.
- Until three years ago, Florida black bears were listed as threatened and the state still does not have complete data on how many black bears it has. The data recently released only includes data from two of the state's seven subpopulations. It is abhorrent to propose hunting the species when there is no reliable, comprehensive, accurate estimate of how many bears exist.
- Because it allows hunters to draw bears to bait stations and to chase wounded bears with dogs on leash, it opens the door to bear baiting and bear hounding (chasing bears with dogs), two very cruel methods of hunting that have been shown to lead to severe animal suffering.