Florida Black Bear Hunt Called Off for 2016

Black bears safe from hunters for now

Bear in tree
The Florida Black Bear is a shy creature. Getty Images

The Florida Black Bear (Ursus americanus floridanus ) lives to fight another day.  The Florida Black Bear hunt scheduled for this week has been cancelled. After a petition filed by the Center for Biodiversity, and public outcry, officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service have decided to hold off on the hunt.

This is a temporary win, however, as the issue will be revisited next year. The animal rights community has won the battle, but not the war, on wild animals.

The Commission held a vote late Wednesday which resulted in a 4-3 tally in favor of the bears. A suggestion the hunt be held in October and on a smaller scale was outright rejected. 

The NRA weighed in by sending a letter written by lobbyist Marion Hammer requesting the hunt go on as planned. The letter was written under the guise of care for public safety, as if that was their first and only concern. Public safety. The NRA is concerned that bears are a threat to people.The NRA. I called to ask the NRA why they felt it necessary to involve themselves in an animal rights issue. I was directed to Amy (get this) Hunter. She stated that the Black Bear hunt is a gun rights issue because it involves guns, and then asked me to send a more formal request for a more formal statement via email. So, I sent the email and pointed out that I have not seen the NRA become involved in LGBT or abortion issues.

Why animal rights? Turns out they've inserted themselves in plenty of animal rights issues over the years including issues involving pit bulls. But now they're concerned about what they call the "explosion" of black bears in Florida.

Black bears are responsible for the deaths of 61 people in North America since 1900.

Meanwhile, 6,676 people were killed by guns in 2016, so far.

Maybe we should all get behind an effort to support our right to arm bears..

Last year, 304 bears were shot and killed in just two days, forcing the state to put a stop to the hunt because the maximum number of animals had been already culled. Laura Beven, Southern Regional Director for the Humane Society of the United States, explains:

“Over 20 years ago The HSUS worked to stop the hunting of Florida Black Bear, so it was devastating when the Florida Wildlife Commission resumed the hunt last year and 304 bears were slaughtered in the woods in less than two days. The vote to NOT have a bear hunt in 2016 was a huge victory because it acknowledges that the recreational killing of bears isn't necessary. However, it is just a reprieve and the issue will no doubt come back up in 2017. Until then, the pro-bear forces have the opportunity to work on reducing human-bear conflict in the hopes that there is no reason for a hunt to be approved next year.”

The Endangered Species List is a database of flora and fauna in North America compiled by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. 

In order to be considered for the Endangered Species List, the species must meet the following criteria (from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service):

“The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; disease or predation; the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; other natural or man made factors affecting its survival.”

The List is a compilation of animals and plant species scientists have deemed so low in number they border on extinction. In the 1970s, the Florida Black Bear population dwindled to a mere 300-500. Not only were they killed by hunters, but they suffered habitat loss. Car accidents and illegal poaching were also contributing to the death of an animal that, if given the chance, would choose flight over fight. The North American Bear Center reports “Fearful people usually tell us ‘I ran one way and the bear ran the other.’”

The issue of the bear hunt has been a hotly contested one ever since the black bear was removed from the endangered species list and placed on the threatened list. Now, because the number of bears has increased to approximately 3,000, according to Defenders of Wildlife, they’ve lost that distinction as well.

The Florida Black Bear is the largest land mammal in the state of Florida but the smallest member of the bear family. It is found only in North America. The species has thrived for centuries throughout the Southeast but has been forced into managing territorial and sustenance issues on only 18 percent of the wide open spaces it once occupied.

According to Dr. Stuart Pimm, Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, “Black bears are an iconic species, an essential part of our natural world: We need to ensure they remain that way.”

In a twist of irony, the delisting of the black bear may not be a blessing. According to Thomas Eason, Director of the Commission’s Habitat and Species Conservation, the delisting represents a success story in conservation. The idea that a species once on the brink of extinction has made such a dramatic comeback is proof that wildlife can be “managed” and kept in check.

There is no doubt the existence of a huge omnivore capable of killing a human presents a challenge to humans. As usual, when there is a human/animal conflict, the go-to solution seems to be always involve butchery. People whose job it is to figure out how to keep wild animals from menacing humans should be smart and talented enough to find a solution that does not involve murdering innocent animals who are simply trying to make their way in the world.