The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be deciding if it'll be issuing black bear hunting licenses in Florida. The black bear, which is native to Florida, had at one time been an endangered species. But that was a mere three years ago, and the animal continues to face threats.
Now, there are roughly 3,000 black bears roaming the state. In recent years, man have begun to have run-ins with humans, due to their shrinking habitat, be it one crashing a toddler's birthday or something vastly more serious, like one that caused a deadly car accident.
Other encounters have included black bears attacking pets and even humans.
The other dark side of black bear encounters is that when one attacks a person, this leads to the bear's being euthanized. And since a specific bear can't be identified as the attacker, several bears found in the area where the attack took place have to be put down.
The state has issued a no-feeding policy and has also looked to secure garage cans, since the bears will go where the easy food source is.
Groups like the Sierra Club and the South Florida Wildlands Association (SFWA) have been calling on the FWCC to vote against allowing hunting licenses.
Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the SFWA, supports nonfeeding ordinances but says that hunting black bears is not the way to go.
"Those are positive developments and are strongly supported by scientific research," Schwartz says of the secured garbage cans and no-feeding policies. "However, recreational bear hunting is not supported by science as a way of dealing with 'nuisance bears' in residential neighborhoods."
For its part, the Sierra Club has put out an online petition for people to tell Gov. Rick Scott and the FWCC to not go through with the issuing of licenses for black bear hunting.
"The real key to solving human-bear conflicts is the management of trash and other attractants, and enforcement of preventing humans feeding bears," the petition reads. "Recent bear attacks have occurred as a result of improperly secured trash receptacles and the active feeding of wild bears by residents."
And, according to a study by the New Jersey Fish and Game Council, opponents to the bear hunting licenses may be on to something. The study, which you can read in its entirety below, shows that recreational hunting does pretty much nothing to quell the "nuisance bears" problem.
In fact, the study, which was conducted across several national parks and cities, goes out of its way to say that nonhunting measures — such as a no-feeding policy and bear-proof garbage cans — are far more effective ways to deter bears from having contact with humans.
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From the study:
"The results demonstrate that at every site in which the hunting approach was evaluated, no effect in reducing the human complaints/conflicts was observed while at every site in which the nonviolent program was evaluated, the nonviolent approach was demonstrated to be markedly effective in reducing human complaints/conflicts."
The Sierra Club is calling on people concerned with the issue to head out to the FWC meeting in Sarasota on June 23 to speak out on behalf of the bears.