Florida made headlines last month when it decided to reinstate a bear hunt that had been irrelevant for over 21 years. For the first time since 1994, Florida voted to allow the weeklong bear hunt, despite outcry from their citizens and conservation experts.
Officials claimed the bear hunt was to control the growing population of black bears in the area, and an effort to decrease the number of bear encounters in suburban areas, and set a quota of 320 bears for the weeklong hunt. However, they overlooked one crucial detail when setting the quota: no one really knows how many black bears are in Florida. In fact, the Wildlife Commission’s last statewide bear count was over 13 years ago. The black bear’s fate is being determined by a figure that hasn’t been recalculated in over a decade.
Florida sold 3,778 permits to hunt bears – more than the estimated 3,200 bears in the entire state.
For a species that as recently as three years ago was listed as threatened, this news does not bode well. Despite the outrage from the public and the foggy numbers to back it up, the hunt started as planned on October 24th, and nearly 3,800 people bought permits and got ready to bag themselves a black bear.
The hunt was called off after two days.
Sadly, the hunt wasn’t called off because they had a change of heart, or because there were no bears to be found — the hunt was called off because they had already reached their quota for the entire week.
After only two days, 295 bears had been killed.
Clearly, this is not the bloody solution we want for Florida’s bear dilemma. Conservationists and hunting opponents stress other options for controlling the population, and for reducing conflict between bears and humans that are more effective than simply killing them off. It is also important to note that most of the bears that were killed during the hunt were likely not even the bears who cause issues in suburban, but instead bears that were buried deep in the woods. The hunting of bears who are living peacefully in the woods will do nothing to stop bear encounters in populated areas. Bears that are in suburban areas are typically looking to forage through trash cans to look for food because their usual sources have been depleted. Replacing garbage cans with bear-resistant trash cans can help deter them from the area. In fact, Volusia County started using bear-resistant trash bins and encounters with bears dropped 95%. It seems that hunting is not always the best answer.Whizzco