Florida’s Game Managers Working Towards 2016 Bear Hunt
Russ Chastain 06.03.16
After decades without bear hunting and with ever-growing numbers of bear-human encounters, Florida finally held a bear hunt in 2015. It was fairly pathetic in scope, lasting only one day in much of the state and two days elsewhere and many areas weren’t open to hunting, but it helped. And it brought me my first-ever black bear, which I deeply appreciate, along with the opportunity to help manage the population of what can sometimes be a dangerous and aggravating animal.
The severe limitations of the 2015 bear hunt were due to pressure from anti-hunters. And as we move towards a possible 2016 bear hunt, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has bent over backwards to be transparent and to cater to anti-hunters in many ways and to ensure that all citizens can be heard and can have access to FWC’s reasoning and resources.
To this end, FWC recently held a series of webinars to provide data and to respond directly to questions and concerns by participants. I participated in one of them, not knowing whether I’d hang around for the entire call. But I kept the phone glued to my ear for three long hours and rarely wasn’t interested in what was being said.
The FWC’s responses to the many comments and questions were unerringly honest and sincere, and while many webinar attendees showed animosity towards FWC, hunting, and hunters, FWC representatives never sounded frustrated and always endeavored to provide solid data in response to the questions.
“Why are you willing to kill bears in the woods instead of giving people tools (trash cans etc) to keep them out of neighborhoods? Or relocating bears?”
“Why are you only asking hunters about any potential hunt rules?”
“Why can’t management be achieved with tracking and marking the bears, analyzing genetic characteristics preferred, and neutering ‘excess’ bears?”
“The claim by FWC seem to be that bears are ‘potentially dangerous to humans.’ When is the last time that a bear has actually attacked a human?”
There were many more, but the answer to that last one was October 24, 2015. Bears aren’t really cuddly after all.
I’m not here to rehash the webinar, just to say that although I am far from a government cheerleader, I wish to give kudos to FWC. I feel they’ve caved a bit too much overall (if I hadn’t gotten my bear on the first and only day, I would have missed out, even though when we hunters bought our permits were were guaranteed two full days of hunting), but it seems to me that they’re handling things pretty well. They’ve got a lot of science on their side, they know the issues inside and out, and they’re forthcoming with any and all info.
The commissioners will make the final decision on the hunt, hopefully sometime soon.
So far, I say: Nice job, FWC. Keep it up, and keep those bear hunts coming.