The amount of fatal interactions that people in the Central Florida area have been having with the Black Bear population prompted a controversial decision from Florida Wildlife officials. Despite protests stating it is inhumane, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continue to issue licenses to over 3,000 hunters, giving them permission to hunt black bears for a week. However, they reconsidered, after the tally reached 298 black bears killed in just two days.
As the human population expands, it inevitably begins to encroach on nature and territory that was once ruled by animals. In such cases, steps have to be taken to reduce the detrimental impact that said wildlife has on the human population. This was the logic behind Florida Wildlife Officials decision to plan a week long hunt of Black Bears in Central Florida. Black bears have become increasingly bold and often wander into neighborhoods searching through human trash to find food. The omnivores and humans often have less than friendly encounters, though.
The commissioner of the FWC, Nick Wiley gave a press conference on Monday that explained their objective was always one of conservation.
“We started this with harvest objectives that were very conservative and very mindful that we were doing this for the first time in 21 years and there were uncertainties.”
The New York Magazine did call attention to the fact that the FWC should have planned better, as they issued an excessive amount of permits. In fact, the exact number of permits issued was 3,779 and it actually exceeded the last known estimate of the bear population of just 3,500. They authorized a death toll of up to 320 black bears, approximately 10 percent of the total black bears living in Florida.
After just one day, the hunt in two of the four different regions of Florida permitted to kill the black bears had to be called off since the quota in those two areas had been topped. By Sunday night, when the overall tally was announced at 295 the hunt was shut down entirely. Wildlife commission chairman Brian Yablonski, seems to have thought the hunt went exceedingly well and that the hunters operated with restraint.
“We stayed within the statewide objective… Hunters, they partake in this with reverence and humility.”
The quota for the areas was set at 100 bears. In Central Florida, hunters killed 139 bears, 112 were killed in the eastern Panhandle, 23 killed in the northern region and 21 killed in the southern region.
Black bears were not permitted to be hunted as of 1994. At the time, the bear population was in serious decline and just starting to recover from record lows of only 300 bears in 1970, a massive dip from the 11,000 that existed in the mid-century.
A wildlife biologist, Thomas Eason, has stated that the sheer ease with which the bears have been hunted is due to the fact that they have not been hunted in 21 years and have grown naive. The fact that they interact with humans who are not trying to kill them on a regular basis is also to be blamed.
“If an animal receives food enough so that it loses its fear of people, becomes used to people… Bears did not become this way without people’s help.”
The hunt went into effect despite public opinion. Tampa Bay Times reported that when the commissioner had requested public opinion nearly 75 percent of the nearly 40,000 respondents voted against the hunt. Many state citizens expressed they felt a sense of betrayal that the state allowed the alleged massacre to happen. Alternatives to the hunt, such as better trash management, reducing odors of human foods or bear-proof receptacles were put forth to no avail.
Despite the current tally, many citizens believe that the hunt may have had far worse effects than Florida officials estimate. Though females with cubs were not allowed to be hunted, the Orlando Sentinel states females described to be “lactating” were brought in. Several bears under 100 pounds (considered cubs and not allowed to be killed) were also brought in.
The total count of the black bear hunt in Florida also does not make room for bears with fatal injuries that were not captured, cubs that will now have to fend for themselves or die, and those bears killed but not reported.
[Photo by Menno Schaefer/Shutterstock.com]