In 2015, Florida’s black bears suffered an estimated 20 percent population decline amidst the first state-authorized hunt since 1994. In 2016, the controversial hunt was put on hold for a year. This spring, Florida wildlife officials went further, announcing that they wouldn’t consider holding another hunt until 2019 at the earliest, in large part due to significant opposition from the public—including many letters sent by AWI members. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reported that close to 90 percent of the more than 4,000 emails the commission received were opposed to holding another hunt.
The Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act (SB 1304), a bill to protect the bears and their habitat, passed the Florida Senate’s Commission on Environmental Preservation and Conservation this spring, but died in the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. AWI will continue to encourage Florida to pursue reasonable measures, such as mandatory bear-resistant garbage containers, instead of allowing hunters to indiscriminately kill hundreds of bears.