Ursus Issues – Or Why The 2015 Florida Bear Hunt Is So, So Wrong

On June 24th, 2015 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a state wide hunt from October 24-30th to kill Florida’s black bears. The reasons stated for the approval were “population control” and “to reduce human/ bear confrontations”.

More than 175,000 people reached out to the commission in opposition to the hunt. About 250 people indicated support of the hunt. These 250 supporters of the cruel hunt primarily consisted of trophy hunters and weapon and gun interest groups. Many reputable organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and The Center for Biological Diversity publicly stated their concern about the hunt and presented multiple scientific studies showing that hunting is not an effective population management tool. Despite the state’s own Bear Biologist testifying that this hunt could be postponed until a census is complete, the FWC voted in favor of the hunt.



  • The hunt is unnecessary. In court testimony on October 1, 2015, Dr. Thomas Eason, Director of Habitat and Species Conservation for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), admitted that the black bear has not exceeded the biological carrying capacity of its habitat. In other words, there are not too many bears in the woods. Dr. Eason also testified that scientific studies have shown that hunting does not reduce conflicts between bears and humans and this hunt is not expected to do so, either. In testimony at the FWC’s meeting on September 2, 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale, Dr. Eason explained that bear-human conflicts can be reduced by as much as 95% through trash-management practices alone. If there are not too many bears in the woods, and conflicts with humans in suburbia can be almost completely solved with simple changes in human behavior, why is the state authorizing the killing of 320 bears?
  • We don’t know the bear’s current population. Only 4 of the 7 Bear Management Units have submitted their census. Our best estimate with these figures shows that the bears are the same population or less as 2003 – the year they were placed on a Species of Concern list. This estimate is about 3,000 bears remaining in the wild. As recently as 2012, the Florida Black bear was on the endangered species list. Dr. Eason testified in court that there is no reason to hunt now instead of waiting until the population numbers are updated in 2016. Further, Dr. Stephen Stringham, one of the country’s foremost bear biologists, testified in court that the population of bears in Florida could actually be declining. Holding a hunt now will invalidate the research that has already been conducted (at the expense of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars) and could push the bear back into the threatened status from which it has only recently emerged.
  • Florida has confiscated 82% of the Florida Black Bear’s original habitat by clearing land for commercial and residential building. Only 18% of the bear’s original habitat remains available to them.
  • Florida has sold off the Florida Black Bear’s main fall food source. For decades the state of Florida has sold permits to harvest Saw Palmetto berries (Serenoa repens), the main food source for the Florida Black Bear during the fall months. Last year alone, FWC sold over 3,200 permits. Each season, prospectors obliterated this crop from wilderness areas, leaving no food for the bears. Between stolen land and stolen food, bears have no choice but to wander into occupied territories to find food for their young.  The FWC suspended the selling of these permits less than a month after declaring the war on bears. This harvest of the saw palmettos lined the pockets of the FWC but, more importantly, destroyed a critical food source making it nearly impossible to avoid coming out of the woods and into residential areas in search of an easy and reliable source of food. This is reminiscent of the actions of early U.S. settlers who executed a planned extermination of the primary source of food and clothing of natives, the American bison, which contributed in part to the genocide of many native tribes. The strategies and species may be different, but the outcome is basically the same.
  • Residents can minimize human-bear interactions in these pillaged lands – aka new subdivisions – very simply by securing their trashcans. Yet as of this date, the state and Waste Management have put no provisions in place to prevent these interactions with simple technologies.
  • Innocent Animals Will Experience Great Suffering and Cruel Deaths. “Nuisance bears” in suburbia are already being killed by the FWC (83 so far this year). This hunt targets bears deep in the woods who have not caused any problems. They are innocent but presumed guilty, and will be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. It can take as many as six shots at point-blank range (muzzle to fur) to kill a large adult bear. One shot, or one arrow, is very unlikely to kill a large bear quickly and humanely. Inevitably, bears will suffer in agony for some time, especially those who are never found by the hunters. Mother bears with cubs are not supposed to be taken, but it is common for mother bears to “tree” their cubs as much as 200 yards away while they forage for food. Hunters will not see the cubs, and those cubs will be orphaned, left alone to die from starvation or predation by male bears. (Cubs stay with their mothers for as long as two years.) The state asserts that most cubs will be nine months of age and will know how to fend for themselves. They do not justify that it is fair to prematurely make them do so. Further, at this time of the year – just prior to denning – many female bears will be pregnant. There is no way for a hunter to know this.
  • There Is No Plan for Monitoring or Policing the hunt. FWC admits there is little to no communication system in place for this event and thus the task of monitoring when 320 Bears have been claimed will be difficult at best. There is no recording of the stomach contents of the Bears to ensure they were not baited with corn, no monitors to confirm that dogs will not be used, or that mothers with Cubs present will not be targeted, etc. In short, no oversight and a hunters’ free-for-all.
  • Selling Unlimited Permits Is Wreckless and Negligent. The hunt allows only 320 Bears claimed, yet the state has sold at the time of this writing ten times that number of permits. The state claims that 320 bears claimed in this hunt plus the current estimates for bears euthanized due to human interactions or killed by motor vehicles will equal 20% of the estimated population. Even if the state had a viable system in place to monitor that no more than 320 bears be killed in this hunt, they fail acknowledge is that killing one mother can easily mean the death of at least three individuals…a mom who is shot plus her two cubs who will subsequently starve to death, not to mention any of their future offspring.
  • There have been no deaths due to bears in the state of Florida, and they are large but docile creatures. About 80 percent of a black bear’s diet comes from plants (e.g., fruits, nuts, berries), 15 percent from insects (e.g., termites, ants, yellow jackets) and 5 percent from meat (e.g., opossums, armadillos, carrion).


TAKE ACTION: The bears need us to speak for them.

  • Contact Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission – Nick Wiley Director @ 850-487-3796 and log your complaint
  • Attend the Friday rally nearest you: stopflbearhunt.com
  • Attend a Vigil this Sunday: https://www.facebook.com/events/401731886703874/
  • Volunteer as a Bear Hunt Monitor: http://www.speakupwekiva.com/Bear_Hunt_Monitors.html
  • Support the lawsuit against the state: http://www.speakupwekiva.com/Stop_the_Black_Bear_Hunt.html
  • Triple your impact – Lodge your complaint with your state elected officials and find out where they stand. Three simple calls cover all angles – FWC, FL Republican, FL Senate – and take a total of ten minutes. Find your representative here http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx

Compiled from independent interview with Fish and Wildlife Commission Bear Management Unit on October 22 and article by Managing Editor R Foster from Bear Defenders. Another great article can be found at this link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201510/florida-bear-hunt-ignores-conservation-psychology-science

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