As black bear populations continue to grow, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will hold three webinars about bear management before it decides whether to conduct another statewide bear hunt. The first webinar took place on Thursday afternoon, and the other two webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, May 31, and June 2.

The commission will meet on June 22 and June 23 to discuss the possibility of leading the second black bear hunt in Florida in more than 20 years. This event will greet the commission in Apalachicola. The first one was held last October and led to controversy as hunters killed 304 bears.

FWC is currently evaluating the alternative to using nonlethal bear management methods
FWC is currently evaluating the alternative to using nonlethal bear management methods before considering killing Florida’s biggest land mammals Image Credit: WUSF News

The FWC informed on its website that those willing to take part in a webinar must have access to a telephone and a computer. People who do not have computer access will be able to listen to the webinar on the phone as long as they register ahead of time by calling 352-372-4747.

David Telesco, who coordinates the commission’s bear management program, said he is hopeful that the webinars will serve to answer any questions from the public regarding a potential 2016 hunt, as reported by CBS Miami. He remarked that it was important for his team to receive public feedback to gather as much information as possible to go to the commissioners with a reliable option.

The commissioners will take a major decision based on the balance of bear population growth and human/bear conflict, considering the steps to follow to keep people safe.

Bear calls have increased 400 percent over the last ten years, and there are 4,350 black bears across the state, according to the commission.

Scientifically known as Ursus americanus floridanus, the Florida black bear is one of 16 subspecies of the American black bear, the FWC informs on its web page. This kind of black bear is completely black furred, unlike other subspecies of the American black bear which can have coat colors ranging from black to blond.

The state protected the species with a “threatened” designation for nearly four decades until 2012. Two years later, the FWC started a 2-year research to estimate population numbers and density and the results led the commission to approve a limited bear hunt in 2015.

FWC official Shannon Wright affirmed that the board’s decisions are always based on “scientific information” and claimed that those who oppose bear hunts are clearly unaware of the scientific arguments that sustain how the limited hunting is a useful tool to stabilize bear subpopulation numbers and prevent more human-bear conflicts.

Activists’ point of view

Local activist Lee Day produced a $400 ad calling on Scott to halt the bear hunt. The ad showing pictures of black bears found in the state have increased in number on cable systems in Central Florida.

Soft music plays in the background until a gunshot suddenly sounds and a dying bear appears on the screen. Day, who recorded the audio during the last hunt, said Scott represented the only way to stop the next black bear hunt, according to the report by WFTV Orlando.

But the governor’s office has made it clear that the decision is entirely up to the FWC commissioners.

“It is for FWC to decide what is best for Florida’s growing bear population. Governor Scott trusts them to make the right decision to keep families safe,” the office of Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement, WFTV Orlando reported.

On Tuesday, the Seminole County Commission approved a resolution asking the FWC to evaluate the alternative to using nonlethal bear management methods before considering killing Florida’s biggest land mammals. The county also asked not to be included in any future hunt. Clermont, Deltona, and Eustis took similar measures.

The FWC admits that bear hunt is not the best solution. It says on its website that the most efficient way to deal with bears is to secure objects that attract them into homes. Seminole set rules last December for securing trash cans and pet food, which has significantly reduced bear complaints.

Keep bears away by hiding any source of unnatural food

However possible is for bears to attack people, it's important to protect and preserve one of the most empowering animals for Americans.
However possible is for bears to attack people, it’s important to protect and preserve one of the most empowering animals for Americans. Image Credit: Libra LionHeart

There’s a series of recommendations the FWC gives on its website to people who live near black bear areas.

The second leading cause of statewide bear calls from 1990 to 2015 was garbage-related. It is important to have a wildlife-resistant container in case the trash ends up outside the house. People should also put household garbage on the morning of pickup instead of the night before to avoid bears coming too near.

These species are usually attracted by anything they could eat, which is why pets should be fed indoors. In fact, black bears can smell food from over a mile away and are capable of traveling great distances to find the source of delicious smells. They tend to avoid contact with humans, but a hungry bear forgets that kind of risks.

Because bears love fruit, people are advised to remove fallen fruit from the ground. The Commission also recommends securing everything around the house with electric fencing, including gardens, livestock, compost, and apiaries.

Bears who find an area that always has easy-to-reach food will most likely return to the food source is no longer available. However, it could take them several weeks to stop coming back once the food has been removed.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission