A few weeks ago the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) began accepting public comment on its draft Black Bear Management Plan. The goal of the plan is to sustain black bear populations, conserve bear habitat and reduce human-bear conflicts.
During the first public meeting held to discuss the plan, FWC staff made the mistake of saying that a return to bear hunting in Florida was a possibility, at some point in the future, although they stressed that hunting was not part of its current plan. (Bear hunting in Florida ended in 1993.) At the word “hunt,” the discussion quickly became a debate between hunters eager for something new to kill and people outraged at the idea of killing Florida’s bears.
Pro-hunting groups like the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance urged its members to contact the FWC in support of reopening hunting. ARFF, The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and other animal protection groups alerted our supporters to demand that bear hunting never resume.
On Monday, the FWC announced that it had postponed all future workshops on the black bear management plan, until it could figure out how to refocus the discussion back to the management plan, and away from the hunting debate. A frustrated FWC employee told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “We knew hunting would be a big issue, but we didn’t know it would be all-consuming.”
It’s clear that Floridians like bears! ARFF will continue to work to make sure bears in Florida remain safe from hunter’s bullets.