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Music For Your Enjoyment

Here’s a shocker for everyone. When you continue to destroy an animal’s habitat and force them to constantly relocate it is highly possible they’ll wind up on your doorstep. The latest animal to start wandering the streets and roads outside of the forest are black bears and now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has drafted a Bear Management Plan that could reopen bear hunting that has been banned since 1994. Scroll down where you can make a difference regarding this subject.

According to David Fleshler’s article in the Orlando Sentinel, instances of black bear sightings have been reported as they become more visible. One “. . . showed up in Weston, prowling gated communities and city streets before wildlife officials hit it with a dart at a busy intersection. Another visited Universal Orlando and hung out at the Hard Rock Hotel’s pool until it was captured. Road kills and complaints of bears in garbage have soared, particularly north of Orlando where a booming bear population is bursting out of the Ocala National Forest.”

Wherever you seem to go in this country, wildlife commissions of one sort or another are asked to address nuisance and even dangerous problems caused by deer, bears, wolves, coyotes and other animals that result because the human populace has encroached on the land where they live or altered the ecosystem that helps sustain them. A plan is often asked for and one of the options most likely to be considered will be hunting. Whenever the hunting option is proposed in a modern society we must consider how far we have regressed as a civilized people.

While the plan doesn’t immediately call for bear hunting to be reopened, it is the “most explosive” issued raised. According to the FWC, “The plan acknowledges the controversial nature of bear hunting and the need to incorporate a wider array of stakeholder involvement to explore hunting as part of Florida’s bear management program. Currently, black bears are protected in Florida and may not be harmed or killed.”

Already hunters are chomping at the bit to raise their guns and add another kill to their bloody bag. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance has reported, “Florida is currently seeking input on a draft framework that will guide the state’s future development of black bear management plans.” They are encouraging their members to leave comments on the proposed plan at an FWC dedicated webpage.

One of the comments posted reads, in part, “As a 52 year old hunter I will voice my input to keep hunting as a viable tool of management. I have hunted black bears for many years in Canada and believe it’s a very useful method of control and research. The harvested animals can be checked and monitored for health inputs and the hunters can contribute economic support to your states wildlife agencies. One time a non-hunter asked me if it was not inhumane to hunt? My reply was ‘have you ever thought about how all animals die in the wild’? All species basically have a poor choice . . . I can say that a well placed shot from a ethical hunter will be about as humane as it gets and has my vote.”

Another comment reads, in part, “I am a lifelong Florida resident aged 64 and have been an avid and active sportsman and hunter most of my life. Please use sustainable hunting as a key part of any long term conservation effort for Florida’s black bears. Sustainable hunting will help keep bear populations in check, reduce wasteful road kill, bring populations to the carrying capacity of the habitat, bring needed revenue via hunting license sales to bear conservation issues and increase the wariness of man to this top predator thus reducing the probability of negative or life threatening human/bear interaction. Sustainable hunting is a recognized tool in sound conservation plans world wide.”

In the Orlando Sentinel article, Newton Cook, executive director of the duck-hunting group United Waterfowlers of Florida, provides what he apparently thinks is the ultimate justification for hunting. “The meat’s good, the hide’s good. We’ve got more bears than we need in some areas, not in all areas, and they’re a nuisance. You don’t just open it up for everyone to go shoot one, you control it. Hunting is a legitimate sport, very important to maintaining the proper balance of both prey and predator in the wild.” Gee, controlled legitimate killing. Perhaps this is an overly sensitive response to this so-called “sport”, but is this really the hallmark of our society we want to pass onto the next generation of the human race?

The draft Bear Management Plan was written by eight members of cross-divisional FWC staff. The team, formed in May 2007, wrote the plan in consultation with a twelve member group representing government and private stakeholder organizations. FWC states these five objectives of their draft plan:

  1. Manage for a sustainable bear population statewide.
  2. Conserve an adequate amount of functional bear habitat to support bear populations and promote connectivity between those populations.
  3. Create Bear Smart Communities, where residents, local government, businesses and schools all take part in reducing bear conflicts.
  4. Stabilize and maintain core bear complaint levels.
  5. Secure adequate funding and staff to enable implementation of the bear conservation program.

David Telesco, bear management program coordinator for the FWC, stated to Mr. Fleshler that “. . . he thinks the state’s bear population could sustain a controlled hunt, with restrictions, although he said he couldn’t be sure without a formal study. Less clear, he said, is whether such a proposal would win public support.”

Mr. Telesco acknowledged, “There are strident supporters for and against. We have to test the waters. We don’t have a feel for what the general public would think.” Furthermore, he said, “The bear-human conflict issue has really taken off. We have a combination of a growing bear population and infringement on their habitat.”

Thankfully not everyone is sold on the bear hunting alternative. As noted in Mr. Fleshler’s article, “. . . any move to open up hunting would be certain to face opposition from environmental and animal rights groups.”

Said Laurie Macdonald, who oversees the work of the Defenders of Wildlife Florida program team in protecting and restoring Florida’s imperiled wildlife, their habitat and a statewide ecological network, “Bear protection goes beyond bears. If we protect enough areas for the bears, we’re really protecting natural systems that all of us love and depend on. I would think the outcry from the public would be hugely against bear hunting. This is still a threatened species, and we will not support hunting of a species whose future is still questionable.”

Others seek alternatives to hunting as well. In the comments, in part, posted to FWC is a strategy heavily endorsed by the animal community on the domestic front that the commenter suggests be applied to wildlife as “. . . a long term sustainable solution. The best way to manage these animals and avoid hunting and future overpopulation is to initiate a neuter spay program as follows. The strategy would be to maintain the wildlife instincts without the unwanted population increases. Thus I suggest vasectomy procedures on male bears and hysterectomies on female bears . . . This strategy would eliminate the need for hunting and would offer a controlled means of determining population quantity and density.”

Also writing on this issue for examiner.com, Samantha Sanders urges Floridians to tell the FWC “. . . that bear hunting should never resume!”

You have until October 1, 2010 to provide public comment to the FWC. To submit new public comments, click here (Under Chapter: select “5-Strategies & Actions.” Under Line, type “All” Then click “Save”). So far, the majority of comments received have been pro-hunting. However, your actions can help reverse that and allow bears to continue to be safe from the bullets of hunters.

Ms. Sanders suggests making these points when commenting to the FWC:

  • Although bear populations have increased since hunting was stopped in 1994, there are less than 3,000 bears statewide. According to the FWC, “the long-term future of black bears in Florida is uncertain.” The Florida black bear is designated by the state as a Threatened species.
  • Hunting will not reduce human-bear conflicts. The best way to prevent problems is to properly store and secure garbage, pet food and other human food sources that attract bears.

She also suggests writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to express your opinion about the option being considered to once again hunt Florida’s black bears.

Hunting is not a sport, but is nothing more than a killing frenzy. Surely we’ve evolved enough as a society to come up with better ways to live with wildlife than resorting to killing them when we as the human species created the problem in the first place.

I want to thank Stephen Dickstein for this article.

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4 Responses to “Managing Bears in Florida, Your Thoughts Matter!”

  • Dale E Smith says:

    Managed hunting has worked for population control all over the United States. If people think that managed conservation is KILLING ALL THE ANIMALS, they should take a look at history, before it was managed. We, Humans, Wiped the wolf off the face of the map in the lower 48. Other species no longer exist in areas that they used to thrive due to non managed hunting. Wipe out the predators and you have an overpopulation of prey. Then the prey animals die of disease and starvation due to lack of habitat. Granted, we were as a society trying to survive in those days. Yes, Predators do compete with humans for territory.

    The sad part is that we caused the problem to begin with and are continuing to be the problem. So if we don’t manage the problem we caused, who will? 6.7 billion humans on a planet with the resources to sustain 2 billion. There is the root of the problem.

    If we are going to continue to encroach on wildlife habitat, there will always be human/bear encounters. Not all will be a pleasant one either. You want to help the bear without hunting it? STOP TAKING YOUR KIDS AND GRAND KIDS TO DISNEY!

    Many want to live in peace and harmony with nature but as you drive your 2.3 kids to the various activities in your 2.5 cars per house. Then you live in a 2500-7000 square foot home that is built in the “new” suburb.(that used to be the home for the bear, cougar, gator, coyote, wolf, deer, elk, antelope). Now you can’t understand that managed hunts are necessary to keep population in check because that is killing the wildlife.

    WAKE UP! You already killed them when you had 3 kids built the house and have multiple cars.

    If you move into the bears backyard, you are the visitor and yes you need to learn to live with them. Bear proof containers, no garbage left outside, no dog doors etc. They do it in Montana and there are still managed hunts.

    Unfortunately there has to be.

  • Anne says:

    bears are dangerous but we are taking over their homes. Where do we expect them to go? I think the suggestions you made are good ones. I did post my thoughts on the link you provided. I hope it helps.

  • Josh says:

    Ralph, I agree. What is happening to the world and people in it? I can only imagine what it will be like 25 years from now. At my age, I’m glad I most likely won’t be here to find out.

  • Ralph says:

    It really bothers me when I see humans KILLING ALL OF THE ANIMALS when WE are the ones invading the animals space. Thank you for sharing this important issue

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