Florida black bears are safe... for now

Despite recommendations from staff to carry out a more "conservative" version of the controversial 2015 Florida black bear hunt, which resulted in the deaths of over 300 bears in a two-day period, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted down another proposed bear hunt 4-3.

The commission heard from dozens of people who spoke both for and against the hunt. Supporters say it's necessary to keep the population stable and protect humans living in wooded areas encroaching on bear habitats. Opponents, meanwhile, say to have a hunt would be incredibly cruel and not based on good science.

Last year, CL outlined why the hunt probably wasn't the best idea.

Environmentalists and animal rights advocates are obviously happy about the decision, though Florida's black bears aren't exactly in the clear yet.

From the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner:

The commission agreed to accept a recommendation for there to be no hunt this year.

"I don't think it means hunting goes away," Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski said at the end of a daylong meeting in the rural Franklin County community of Eastpoint.

Yablonski added that the delay will allow non-lethal efforts to take hold. Those efforts include expanding the availability of bear-proof trash containers in communities with high incidents of bear-human interactions.

In a media release issued shortly after the decision, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, lauded the decision, which he said reflected the will of not only those who spoke against it Wednesday, but two-thirds of Florida voters who, when surveyed, said they oppose what Pacelle called a trophy hunt.

“Florida residents spoke in overwhelming numbers that they don’t want a trophy hunt, and the commission did the right thing and heeded their sentiments. We hope today’s important action signals a shift to humane, effective bear management in the Sunshine State. Public education, trash management and other non-lethal methods are more effective and humane than trophy hunting.  We thank Commissioners Bergeron, Rivard, Spottswood and Yablonski for listening to the mass of public opinion favoring more humane management.” 

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