Black bears, © Courtney Celley/USFWS

A Break for Black Bears

This year, Florida’s unique black bears have nothing to fear when fall hunting season rolls around. The state has postponed its black bear hunt at least until fall of 2017, thanks in part to Defenders of Wildlife. We urged the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to use this time to work to restore the public’s trust after last year’s contentious hunt. And fortunately for the bears, the FWC listened.

The tie-breaking vote at Wednesday’s meeting came from FWC Chair Brian Yablonski, who cited my testimony in his decision. Specifically, he noted my suggestions to foster collaboration among all stakeholders on this issue, and take time to fully assess the impact of the 2015 hunt before taking more action.

Black bear cub, © Florida Fish & Wildlife CommissionLast year’s hunt, the state’s first in over 20 years, was suspended after hunters killed an incredible 304 of the 321-bear quota in only the first two days. The hunt was supposed to last a week. The FWC Wildlife Commission faced a severe public outcry in the aftermath, when it was revealed in the media that hunters had shot bears near feeding stations as well as mother bears and young bears that were under the size requirement.

Successful conservation efforts have allowed the Florida black bear population to increase from a low of only 300-500 in the 1970s to more than 4,000 today. During this same time, Florida’s human population grew from around eight million to 20 million people. As a result, bears and humans are coming into contact and conflict more frequently as development spreads into formerly-wild lands and bears are attracted to unsecured garbage in neighborhoods and killed on roads.

Defenders has worked for more than two decades in Florida to conserve a statewide wildlife habitat network and engage in transportation planning that avoids fragmentation. We also advocate for wildlife crossings so that bears and other wildlife, such as endangered Florida panthers, can move throughout their ranges safely. We have pioneered bear education and outreach programs that encourage responsible homeowner practices, such as securing trash and other food attractants. Defenders spearheaded the Conserve Wildlife license plate, which has raised $7.4 million for programs that benefit the Florida black bear and a wide variety of other wildlife species. Funding for bears has included conservation, management and research as well as support for resources like bear-proof trashcans. Coexistence is the key to making sure that people can share the landscape with Florida’s incredible native species.

We are very pleased that the FWC is stepping back and taking the time to more carefully assess the full range of non-lethal tools for Florida black bear management instead of heading immediately into a second hunt. All Florida species deserve good stewardship, and Defenders of Wildlife is working hard to ensure that bears and other wildlife in the state are able to thrive for generations to come.

27 Responses to “A Break for Black Bears”

  1. Janet Davies

    Another case of man killing beautiful animals. We’re obviously not able to live in harmony with these or other creatures as man is just a killing machine who won’t be happy until all animals are extinct

    • Kevin

      Either Florida’s Black Bear hunters are reincarnations of Daniel Boone and David Crockett which I doubt, or else there is a much larger Black Bear population in the Sunshine State than anyone suspected. No one want’s to eliminate the Black Bears except maybe for the Florida Beekeepers, and certainly not Florida’s hunters. The idea behind scientific conservation practices is to manage wildlife populations. The only alternative and one I suspect that many posting here believe, is to instead manage the human population with the eventual goal in mind of ridding the Earth of large portions of it’s human population.

    • Elizabeth Hanson

      Yes, it would seem that it is a case of man interfering with wildlife. No, humans have a hard time accepting that the bears were here first and that human encroaching on habitat and tempting the hardwired nature of bears in particular(searching for the easiest way to forage for food) as I suspect alot of species do. Humans must change their habits and educate themselves on the principals of science and experience to control the intermingling of humans and nature. I, too am a modest contributor, but with the slow down from health issues makes “rallying the troops” not easy anymore…so he printed word, telephones(the land line kind) and raising my boys, who are hunters, and neighbors and friends with a little elder experience and knowledge sharing is my forte now. Most importantly, educating the next generations (now into great grands-all boys) is my responsibility.

  2. Eden Wild

    Thank goodness for the reprieve. MAKE IT PERMANENT TO STOP KILLING BEARS! Face boycott if you don’t protect wildlife. Stop stealing tgeir habitats then murdering them because they are starving and seek garbage from careless people’s cans. #defendersOfWildlife #BanBearHunts #ifaw.org #ihs.org #lionsTigersBears.org #pawsweb.org Protect all bears and seals, boycott Canada! #sealClubbers #bearKillers #whaleKillers #wakeUpWorld

  3. GABRIELA VARGAS

    NO QUEREMOS SÓLO UN DESCANSO TEMPORAL PARA LOS OSOS, Y QUE LOS DEJEN EN PAZ SÓLO POR UN TIEMPO; NO!!!!!!!! QUEREMOS QUE TANTO LOS OSOS COMO CUALQUIER OTRA ESPECIE VIVAN EN PAZ Y EN ABSOLUTA LIBERTAD, PROTEGIDOS DE CUALQUIER ABUSO DEL SER HUMANO POR SIEMPRE, NI UN SÓLO INDIVIDUO MÁS PARA LA CACERÍA. NO MÁS CACERÍA NUNCA MÁS!!!

  4. david smith

    very glad someone is there to do what needs to be done. just finished watching a short educational on the news relating to Yellowstone about how close the bison came to extinction. please keep up the good work
    sincerely
    a modest contributor

  5. Adam Sugalski

    What your blog is missing is the real story. Groups, which are not mentioned here, from all over the state have had an intense year long campaign to make this happen. This bear hunt fight was a grassroots movement plain and simple. Protesting(28 cities, largest in the US history), leafleting, outreach programs, ordinances, bear proof trash cans, email campaigns, call in events, and much more. https://www.facebook.com/stopbearhunt/

    • mindy

      Thank you, Adam, for all you do to save the bears and other animals. You coordinate events and supplies which enables people to participate in helping animals too. Thank you also to every person that shows up for protests, donates money, et cetera, for the animals who need our help. We need more protesters, so please keep in touch with Adam on Facebook and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, http://www.arff.org, for upcoming campaigns.

  6. Rita Janecek

    I am so happy and relieved that the FWC is going to reevaluate this matter. I’m so happy for the beautiful black bears. I think the answer is allowing more space for the animals to live and more secure trash cans is a great idea too! There are creative ways to preserve animal life and protect humans too.

  7. Wes

    I never understood the cruel or spiritually devoid ways of some. I am a gun owner and would never shoot anything just to kill.I really don’t understand that way of thinking, maybe that’s because I’m an Indian( Native American) and I feel a strong respect for these lands.

  8. Janet Yesh

    Stop allowing people to have permits to go into what little bear habitat is left and steal the Bear’s food source.

  9. Steve Davis

    Unfortunately, far too many humans are not at all aware that they make cruel selfish decisions. They don’t care to think about creative and mutually helpful solutions. Instead it’s usually the same old kill kill kill first and then after huge public outcry it’s well maybe there’s a more respectful and more caring way to allow 20 million humans to deal with only a couple thousand black bears through out Florida its way past time in our supposedly more civilized society to give non human species (wildlife) the rights to safely live in their wild habitat.

    • Linda L

      Well said Steve! And I think that way for all wildlife not just bears!!! I wish more people thought like you!!

    • Tina Shurtleff

      Florida has a history of clear cutting and destroying habitat. Where I use to live they cleared several acres of beautiful land with bulldozers and burned everything. I called to complain and asked why they could not have saved some of the trees and they said it was easier for developers to clear cut. Right across the road was a bear sanctuary surrounded by development. Before it’s too late more of the land must be preserved or no wildlife will stand a chance.

  10. Lynn Anner-Bolieu

    I love the photos of the little cubs! Thanks to all who contribute time and money. Lynn (another modest contributor).

  11. Victor Rossi

    Hooray

    Nice to see that intelligence has prevailed over FWC;s greed and lack of scientific evidence.

  12. Tracy

    What it is needed, because of this Black bears coming on peoples property, using their pools..they need to make a pond in the woods, for the bears. this way they will not come into peoples yards.Where ever the Black bears are do this and you will not have Black bears in yards..AND stop Builders from building houses where the bears population are. I f they do the Builder should warn the home buyers, of the
    palatial of having Black bears around..Because we decided to just shoo them away and built on the bears habitat.

  13. Craig Alberhasky

    I think it is pretty pathetic that animals need to be killed to satisfy the uncaring blood lust of folks that call themselves hunters. It amazes me that anytime an animal kills a human that there is such an outcry to kill the animal but when we humans go on a killing spree it seems to be called sport. What a sick joke. Hunters please take the time to understand that every animal you kill puts and end to that animal being able to ever reproduce. You’ve ended that bloodline and that is not right.

  14. Tonya Cather

    If man would stop moving in and crowding bears and other animal’s. If they would stop taking more and more and more of their habitats and territories, the animal’s would not have to venture into nearby neighborhoods and trash cans to find something to eat!!! If so many men and women did not have the need to KILL animal’s for sport! If man were not so selfish to have EVERYTHING in the world for himself, these bears, wolves, bison, and all of the wild could exist with us in a world where there IS room for all!

  15. Thomas Bigford

    We see bears all the time in my state, and most love to see them. They are beautiful animals and also not aggressive at all. They look perfectly groomed so that the fur is shiny black, and they are good parents as well. Anyone who feels macho about shooting a black bear with a rifle is a fool. Anyone could do it, but no one should, except in cases of life or death.

  16. Rozalie Palan

    Humans! You have no business in an animal”s habitat. Keep out. Go away. They belong there, you don’t.

  17. john pasqua

    must end all these lame hunters that are killing wildlife the earth needs now.

  18. GABRIELA VARGAS

    EL SER HUMANO NUNCA SERÁ LIBRE NI FELIZ HASTA QUE TRATE CON RESPETO LA VIDA. SI QUEREMOS VIVIR CON PAZ, SIN DELINCUENCIA, SEGUROS Y CON UN SISTEMA POLÍTICO, SOCIAL Y ECONÓMICO ESTABLES Y EVOLUCIONADOS, ENTONCES TENEMOS QUE FORMAR SOCIEDADES CON COMPASIÓN, LAS CUALES DEN LUGAR A UN SISTEMA MUNDIAL DE PAZ Y VERDADERA LIBERTAD; PARA LOGRAR ESTO TENEMOS QUE EMPEZAR A TRATAR A TODAS LAS ESPECIES DEL PLANETA Y AL PLANETA MISMO CON COMPASIÓN. NO QUEREMOS CACERÍA, NI TEMPORADAS DE ASESINATOS NUNCA MÁS.

  19. Yoko Ono

    Human stop killing black bears who have right to live in this planet !They have been living here longtime before us . Just leave them alone

  20. BOXEY YA BOY

    thank fuck this world is finally getting better piece by piece

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