Florida wildlife officials Thursday called last month’s bear hunt a success, with 304 bears killed in two days and few hunters cited for violations — but critics called it a slaughter, saying most of the bears were killed on private land, where state regulations could be more easily skirted.
In a report released Thursday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said 304 bears were killed — 16 short of the so-called “harvest objective” of 320 that was set for the state’s first bear hunt in 21 years.
“We had a safe, sustainable, highly successful bear hunt,” Thomas Eason, the commission’s director of Habitat and Species Conservation, told reporters in a conference call.
Officials said the goal of the hunt was to control the state’s growing black bear population. The hunt had been expected to last up to seven days, starting on Oct. 24, but was halted on Oct. 25, as it quickly became clear that the quota of bears to be killed would be reached sooner than predicted.
According to the report, 59 percent of the bears killed statewide were females, while 21 percent were lactating females, meaning they were caring for cubs. The state allowed hunting in four areas of the state dubbed “bear management units.”
“To stabilize large and growing bear populations in four of the state’s seven bear management units, bears of either sex were allowed to be taken during the hunt,” the report said. “Regulations stipulated that the bear must weigh at least 100 pounds … and cubs must not be present.”
The question of orphaned cubs has been one of the most controversial aspects of the hunt, but Eason said the commission hasn’t seen an increase in the number of cubs it normally encounters. He also said the cubs were big enough to survive on their own.
Laura Bevan of the Humane Society of the United States, which opposed the hunt, acknowledged that cubs “have a chance to survive” without their mothers, but she said the odds are worse. And she noted that during the hunt, a cub that weighed 40 pounds had been killed.
“I have dogs bigger than that,” she said.
But what most troubled Bevan was the gap between the 78 percent of bears killed on private land and the 22 percent killed on public land.
By the terms of the hunt, “baiting” the bears — luring them with food — wasn’t allowed. But Bevan said that restriction is much harder to enforce on private property, and she alleged that the bears had been trained to visit feeders on private land. She pointed to the eastern Panhandle bear management unit, where 111 bears were killed on private land and three on public land.
“On private land they were just blasting away at bears that came, probably, to those feeders for God knows how long,” Bevan said. “They were slaughtered There was no skill involved.”
She also said the hunt took place at the time of year when bears are preparing to hibernate and are especially intent on gathering food.
But Eason said the gap between kills on public and private land was due to greater opportunity, since there is much more private land in the bear management units. He also said private owners have more natural interest in their property.
Additionally, Eason said, the commission has a strong law enforcement presence to guard against breaking the hunt regulations.
“They are out there looking, so I wouldn’t say that it is easier or harder anywhere,” he said. “I would say I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone out there.”
Overall, he said, hunter compliance with regulations was high.
One hunter in the eastern Panhandle region was issued a citation for killing the cub that weighed just over 40 pounds. Another citation went to a hunter in the state’s Central region for using bait to lure a bear. And a hunter in the Central region got a warning for killing an 88-pound bear.
Four more investigations are underway in other cases pertaining to the hunt, said commission Maj. Craig Duval, but he said he couldn’t give details.
A total of 3,778 bear-hunt permits were issued in the months leading to the hunt. They cost Florida residents $100 and out-of-state hunters $300 for the right to each kill one bear. Eason said the sales brought the agency roughly $377,000.
He also said it was too soon to tell if the state will have another bear hunt next year.
“We are taking a holistic approach,” he said. “Hunting is one mortality factor of many, and we need to see where we end up for the whole year across all of that before we can make any definitive idea on whether we are definitely hunting or not hunting.”
–Margier Menzel, News Service of Florida
Uncle Rufus says
When is OPEN SEASON on illegal aliens? Where can I get my permit ? Can I lure them in with Bait feeders ? Let’s set the limit this season at 1.2 million !!!
State Wildlife does the same for other species as well; fish, gator, birds, snakes. It’s necessary, but there are many uninformed naysayers.
Next time a wild bear invades your kitchen and eats your precious FiFi, don’t call the state. Call Ghostbusters.
And why do you not understand they are not mutually exclusive?
Hey Rufus, I’m starting a redneck hunting season. I’m going to tie your sister to a tree next to a 12 pack of Natty Ice, so I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon.
Is he always so stupid, or is today a special occasion?
Sara Lockhart says
I’ve lived in Florida all my life, back when Florida was like Alaska is now – exotic and wild to the rest of the nation. Many people who lived here then hunted and fished to put meat on their table, and some still do. When I started coming to Flagler County in 1999 and it reminded me of the Florida I thought had long ago disappeared under paving and parking lots. With permission from private land owners, I’d visit their properties during the annual Flagler Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count . But I stopped doing so about five years ago. Even though I had permission to be on property and the hunters who saw us knew that we had permission to be there, I felt it was no longer safe. Why? Baited fields, poaching, and shooting just to shoot, as evidenced by shell cartridges left behind.
I think everyone realizes the nuisance bears, which we’ve created, were not affected by this “harvest” and became the excuse to reopen “game” hunting. A long term management strategy would be to create wildlife corridors where bears can migrate without human interaction but our development patterns continue to isolate them and then we wonder why they are in our neighborhoods. Good bye, Florida, hello, Suburbia!
David B says
Nice to hear it was successful. I participated to this successful cause.
It was a slaughter, not a hunt. FWC does not want bears in the state. It’s a simple as that. They do not want to mess with all the nuisance calls anymore. I would like to see them get rid of all the armadillos, now there is an issue and a nuisance. I hear they’re good eating, or so says Andrew Zimmern. Hunters, to get those armadillos. Stuffed they look great on a mantle.
Now can we go after alligators that are actually harming people and for those that live down south, way south the out of control big snakes that are making their way to our neck of the woods. .
Only a success for the gun & ammo manufacturers, taxidermists and narcissistic blood thirsty killers who participated. The citations that were issued for killing cubs and baiting were taps on the wrist, no fines. Baiting should be a felony. The only purpose of this slaughter was to quench the blood thirst of people who are not sportsmen but killers. They do not shoot bears to feed their family, they do not use skills, it is solely a blood sport by compassion-less, heartless, cold-blooded murders who lack self-esteem and need to fill the void of their own inadequacies with mounted heads and skins of the innocent. Pathetic.
Totally agree with you Kevin, this was just a slaughter for blood thirsty killers!