Bear hunts in Florida have been a contentious issue for years pitting outraged animal advocates against those who believe the hunts are necessary to manage state bear population.
Yesterday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted 4-3 to put the brakes on a 2017 hunt that was being considered to take place during bear hunting season in October.
“When you’re approaching the capacity, then a hunt is a management tool,” said commissioner Ron Bergeron, who voted against setting a quota for a 2017 hunt. “to this being an icon animal, I think it deserves higher appreciation. I look at the bear like I look at a bald eagle, a manatee or a panther.”
The last hunt, which took place in 2015, claimed the lives of more than 300 bears in the first weekend of the season, according to the News Press.
At the time, Eco-Watch reported that wildlife officials ended the 2015 hunt early, which was originally approved for up to seven days, because the number of bears killed in the first two days were already nearing the state-wide limit of 320 bears.
Research by the commission indicated that there are an estimated 4,350 black bears in the state; a substantial increase from 300 to 500 in the 1970s.
Talks of another bear hunt taking place have been tabled for the time being with wildlife staff directed “to come back in two to three years with an updated bear management plan, on which commissioners could base a hunt”.
According to 2011 census records, the most recent available, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 215,000 Floridians hunted in 2011; representing about only 1 percent of the Florida population.
Shockingly, according to animal welfare organization Born Free USA, it is legal to hunt black bears in 27 states; many allowing cruel hunting practices, such as spring hunts, baiting, hounding, and the selling and trade of bear parts.
An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 bears are legally hunted in the United States each year, according to its website, not including those that are illegally poached.
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