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Saving Florida’s Black Bears

A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man. Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine-trees, and he who understand it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it. -Henry David Thoreau

Animals don’t make me cry. What humans do to animals does. -AD Williams

In just a few days, on April 15, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) holds a hearing to consider a proposal allowing the trophy hunting of Florida black bears — a species that is unique to Florida and has been protected for two decades. Under the proposal, trophy hunters could kill up to 275 bears each year. The FWC claims that due to a recent increase in bear attacks, they have no other choice but to kill the bears for public safety. Recent incidents involving human-bear conflict were in areas where the bears were drawn to unsecured garbage, and humans illegally feeding bears. Many admit that hunting would not reduce the number of bear incidents in suburban neighborhoods. Allowing hunters to destroy these animals not only fails to resolve human-bear conflicts (for which the agency already has management systems in place), but will place an entire species at risk. Rather than trophy hunt this delicate species, the FWC should proactively work on helping and educating the public to avoid such conflicts with this typically shy and gentle animal.

Florida bear hunting ended relatively recently, when the population fell to barely 500 bears — they were on the brink of extinction. It was the FWC that petitioned the federal government for help in protecting them. Bears were removed from the threatened species list in 2012, but the species is very fragile, and is still recovering amidst difficult (to put it mildly) scenarios. Florida’s bears live in small areas, fragmented by the state’s rampant overdevelopment, and face serious threats — including severe habitat loss, genetic isolation, and road mortality.

 

Florida Black Bear

 

The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is a subspecies of the American black bear that ranges throughout most of Florida and southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. They live mainly in forested areas and have seen radical habitat reduction throughout the state. Florida black bears are mainly solitary, except during mating season. Although they are solitary mammals, Florida black bears are not considered to be territorial, and typically do not defend their range from other bears. Read more about the species here.

Before Florida was settled by Europeans, Florida black bears occupied all of the Florida mainland, into the Keys, and had a population near 12,000. Today, overdevelopment in the state has pushed them into isolated groups living mainly in protected areas, including Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest, and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. 

To get an idea of what these wonderful creatures — as well as so many others — suffer due to habitat loss in Florida: Nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) of wildlife habitat are lost to new development every hour in Florida. And this report dates to 2010! These same bears are further at high risk for being injured or killed by motorists. Since 1994, 89.5% of bear deaths have been attributed to such crashes.  (Defenders of Wildlife)

 

Saving the Florida Black Bear

 

Florida is in desperate need of attention to, and ceasing its cruel ignorance towards, the state’s natural flora and fauna. The fact that these gentle and shy animals, just recently on the brink of extinction, are even under consideration to be slaughtered as part of trophy hunts is beyond appalling. As an avid hiker throughout the state, I’ve yet to encounter one of these beauties. I’ve heard them, known they were behind me smelling the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich in my backpack, but I’ve yet to witness one. I HAVE, however, encountered many a hunter, hunting illegally. (They often think I’m a ranger.)

I truly hope that wisdom and foresight (with a touch of kindness) will rule the state, soon — for the animals’ sake as well as for ours.

Speak up for those with no voice, our magnificent Florida Black Bears — PETITIONS to sign BEFORE April 15!

45 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on The News You Wanted To Hear This Week.

    April 10, 2015
  2. Christina, this is repulsive, I wish we could all go and protest the day the hunt opens. I just can’t believe it!!! We are making the Black Bear pay for our mistakes!!!

    April 10, 2015
    • It’s truly breaking many people’s hearts, that this would even be CONSIDERED, with the populations and continued threat. They need to learn from other states, about human-animal interactions.

      April 10, 2015
  3. It’s sad when animals must pay the price for lack of conservation foresight and growing urbanisation. Hope your petition wins out in stopping the hunting.

    April 10, 2015
    • You’re absolutely right… And some areas are much more ignorant of wildlife’s continued plight in the face of disappearing environments.

      I’ve seen much success with some of these petitions, so I hope they serve to show the political center of Florida the disapproval over this issue….

      April 10, 2015
  4. The sad truth is that the government agencies involved want the money from hunters that will pay for a chance to get a license, and then the license itself.

    April 10, 2015
    • I’m completely with you on this… The gun and hunting lobbies have tremendous sway in the politics of most of these scenarios. I’m thankful for the LAND that hunters have managed to protect — but when you’re talking about hunting a species coming back from a recently endangered status; one that struggles to survive on bits of land here and there — it’s honestly too saddening for words.

      April 10, 2015
  5. Even though in some places allowing hunters to be part of controlling a problem isn’t inappropriate……I do not believe that it is the correct action for Florida’s Black Bear. I do not support it either. At the same time this came up there is also a petition to the South Florida Water Management District Commissioners concerning the option to purchase 48,600 acres of US Sugar Lands and to retain rather than sell off some cattle ranching lands they already own. Even though I feel that the subsidies to sugar should be removed and that would get sugar out of Florida, if buying land is what has to be done to get it out of the hands of the sugar industry, then we need to do it. Tax payers get it on both sides…false support of an industry we don’t need, then paying to clean up after them and cost to the environment. A number of issues. These lands need to be allowed to revert to natural wetland for the health of our ecosystem.

    I would like to just put in a small word that hunters are not always the enemy and can actually be friend to wildlife interests. Hunting interests have helped get lands set aside for preservation to save and keep in pristine condition in many areas of our country when no one else could. As a Floridian I am proud of the balance with which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission really does handle the very real concerns of saving the everglades, Florida Bay, its creatures and balancing human access.

    But, getting to the Black Bear, hunting is not the answer…a petition that should be signed. And Christina is right, petitions do work and are considered by those in position to make these decisions. And citizens do need to look at these issues and protect that which cannot protect itself.

    April 10, 2015
    • Despite my inability to understand the hunter’s mindset, I AM with you on this topic. While I can’t bear the thought of hunters (personally), I know we have MANY, enormous swaths of beautiful land in Florida that is due to them, and them alone. And for that, I am ever-grateful.

      My issue, as I’m sure you can see in the post, is that 1) there is already MUCH illegal hunting (I’ve run into it personally, many times) — so they can’t impose something like this, on these guys… And, 2) trophy hunts on a species just coming back from an endangered status is simply horrific. And ignorant. The populations are struggling to survive, on tiny pieces of land (relatively speaking, that is). I have to wonder about the gun and hunting lobbies in this discussion, because they are FIERCE, strong, and very powerful. Lots of money involved.

      They just need to think these things through more, in Florida. In many people’s opinions, much more than they already do!

      Thanks so much for reminding us of the delicate balance — although with the FLA black bear, it certainly seems a bit more distinct. Education! Stop feeding wildlife! Don’t keep open dumpsters throughout the state! Don’t simply jump to the worst possible solution, trophy hunts on this fragile species.

      April 10, 2015
      • Right On!! Education is key!! It disturbs me to see people feeding the alligators too in the glades. That kind of entertainment does not help wildlife. Thank you.

        April 10, 2015
  6. Good luck in your campaign, Christina. Adequately bear proofing garbage is easily done and will solve most human-bear encounters. Certainly much more so than shooting bears. –Curt

    April 10, 2015
    • Thanks so much! There are many ongoing campaigns for this insane issue, and I hope that people’s conservation voices are heard in Tallahassee next week. There’s an incredible amount that can be done, as you say — protecting your garbage, education about not (!!!) feeding bears, etc. To have open dumpsters throughout Florida, and people feeding wildlife — and then blame the animal in order to kill it, is just appalling.

      April 10, 2015
  7. Pam #

    So wrong. I signed all the petitions. Thank you for posting the links.

    April 10, 2015
    • Thank you thank you!! 🙂 I know it’s a bad problem in Central to North FLA, but I’ve heard so many stories, PERSONALLY, of wide-open dumpsters, people feeding wildlife… To go straight to mass hunts of this delicate species is absurd. And ignorant.

      April 10, 2015
  8. The bizarre conclusions people reach in reaction to these attacks is astounding. Hopefully an intelligent response can be found before the bears are gone.

    April 11, 2015
    • I agree, BIZARRE is completely right… Especially in this particular case. It was only recently that they were nearly completely wiped out in the state, and their populations are far from excessive — how can they be? To reach this conclusion / proposal is mind-boggling cruel and ignorant.

      April 14, 2015
  9. linda warsing #

    Stand up for the black bears. Don’tt let hunters decide what’s right. Let them get a real job that doesn’t involve killing innocent creatures./

    April 11, 2015
    • I think we need to stand up for ALL wildlife, in this world — our ignorance and cruelty towards them is just mind-boggling!

      Thanks so much for your support — here’s to praying that FLA listens.

      April 14, 2015
  10. Black bears wander around my house sometimes. Mostly people don’t leave out garbage except on the morning of pick up. And no one would think of feeding them, but then, we know bears. Since they are so big one must have some rules of conduct in order not to come to harm. Tourists haven’t a clue and they need to be educated…….Do not feed the bears! I don’t know if intense education would do the job but there has got to be something better than killing bears. Thanks for your intervention.

    April 11, 2015
    • You bring up such a good point… The ethics of treating wildlife. We as humans do so many ignorant, stupid, harmful things to the wild animals — and then we turn it entirely on them and go to the worst possible scenario. This is a particularly disgusting case; the fact that their populations AREN’T huge by any means, and their world, their land, is being eaten up at an extraordinary rate. The whole issue is flabbergasting.

      April 14, 2015
  11. blessings Fey that you are their friend!! great info and Good luck with your ongoing mission!!

    April 11, 2015
    • Thanks so much! I appreciate all the organizations that really brought this pitiful issue to the forefront. I hope Tallahassee LISTENS!

      April 14, 2015
  12. Thank you for the links. Singed them all!

    April 11, 2015
    • Sorry, So mad, cannot spell! Signed them all.

      April 11, 2015
      • If you sign documents very rapidly you might singe them.

        April 13, 2015
      • Heh heh! 🙂

        April 14, 2015
    • Hoorah! Sending out TONS of good vibes tomorrow, for an honorable and humane decision.

      April 14, 2015
  13. Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    Thank you for sharing this. I had no idea this was going on. The leadership in Florida seems determined to destroy Florida if not to profit their corporate cronies, then for any random reason they can dig up:-/

    April 11, 2015
    • Thanks so much for sharing! I’m very thankful that environmental and animal-protection groups brought this to the forefront (Humane Society, etc.). I hope a rational, kind voice can be heard in the questionable halls of Tallahassee tomorrow.

      April 14, 2015
  14. This isn’t rational. Whatever might lie behind the proposal (money, no doubt, or the influence of people and organizations who contribute to political campaigns) it’s clearly not the solution.

    I’m not opposed to hunting. In fact, hunting is an important part of efforts to control feral hogs here in Texas and to cull white tail deer populations that are falling victim to starvation simply because of sheer numbers. But that isn’t true with your bears. The conflicts that are arising aren’t a function of numbers. It’s poor behavior on the part of people, a lack of understanding, and an unwillingness to consider the possibility that the bears might have as much right to be here as we do.

    Besides that, the very phrase “trophy hunting” drives me crazy. Hunting for food is one thing. I like venison sausage as much as the next person. But hunting to put an animal on the wall? Spare me. And spare the bears, too.

    April 12, 2015
    • I’m in complete agreement with you… We’re not talking about an overpopulated species, here — the furthest from it! If they’re starving, it’s because of habitat loss (grrrr). One can’t help but wonder the influence of influence / money in this proposal.

      I’ll be sending out a ridiculous amount of good vibes tomorrow, for a more honorable and humane decision in Tallahassee.

      April 14, 2015
  15. The Thoreau quotation was new to me so I looked it up. It turns out to be from The Maine Woods. The version you cited gloms together two disjoint sentences but omits most of the passage:

    “Strange that so few ever come to the woods to see how the pine lives and grows and spires, lifting its evergreen arms to the light, — to see its perfect success; but most are content to behold it in the shape of many broad boards brought to market, and deem that its true success! But the pine is no more lumber than man is, and to be made into boards and houses is no more its true and highest use than the truest use of a man is to be cut down and made into manure. There is a higher law affecting our relation to pines as well as to men. A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man. Can he who has discovered only some of the values of whalebone and whale oil be said to have discovered the true use of the whale? Can he who slays the elephant for his ivory be said to have “seen the elephant”? These are petty and accidental uses; just as if a stronger race were to kill us in order to make buttons and flageolets of our bones; for everything may serve a lower as well as a higher use. Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.”

    On a different note, I’ll add that my most recent experience with pines comes from my trip to New Zealand in February. I found that the English settlers soon cut down most of New Zealand’s native trees and either farmed the resulting land or planted it with vast stands of non-native pines (there had been no pines there before). What a loss.

    April 13, 2015
    • What a gorgeous, complete quote — thanks for sharing that! I’ve never seen it, in its entirety. Brilliant man, Thoreau.

      That’s tragic, what you describe happening in NZ — and yet, we are still doing it! To carry on that thought… In Florida, the Australian Pines / Melaleuca were brought in, to drain the state’s magnificent swamps. As beautiful as they are — they’re a scourge, growing rapidly to squeeze out what little of the native flora wasn’t ripped up and logged. If it weren’t for a few people in FLA’s recent history, who protected the native trees and plants on THEIR property, I wonder what would even be remaining.

      April 14, 2015
  16. Great Post + Good for you for speaking out and caring!!! That is me jumping up and down( I do that often when I am happy + excited). If you were standing across from me, I would give you a big “bear hug”..tee hee!!!.yep, I would. I don’t know why we can’t live in harmony with nature. We are the problem. We need to give them their space and learn to take up less space with our sprawling cities. We also should learn to pick up our garbage!
    I am from the MIdwest and we learn to live with bears + when you camp, you put your stuff up so they don’t come near the site. They are just looking for food.
    Some of our family lives in Lake Tahoe-California and they have the large bears break down their doors. They never did many years ago when I would visit ( as a child), but people are taking their space away where they need food.
    My aunt told me that a few years ago her grandson left gum on the windowsill( maybe I told you this story-I just told someone-can’t remember:-)please forgive if I did-…the bear broke the window down and when it would get into their house open the fridge!
    They are smart:-)
    Great post and oh…adorable pictures of cubs-how could anyone want to shoot one!

    April 13, 2015
    • Thanks so much! 🙂

      You’re absolutely right… In this particular case, they’re treating a historically shy creature, and doing the worst to them — all due to humans’ ignorance. The fact that they were recently endangered just makes it all the more shocking. They ARE incredibly bright animals, too! But when they’re hungry, due to disappearing habitat, you can’t blame them for searching for READY, available food! Sheesh. Learn, people, learn… Like they do in the rest of the country!!

      April 14, 2015
  17. I have seen this and there are so many similar things going on. The first thought is to kill. It would be nice to really understand the animal before we jump to killing. On some level I understand hunting, but I don’t eat animals and certainly wouldn’t kill them… Sigh… Michelle

    April 17, 2015
    • I totally agree with you… I’ve been a vegetarian and complete animal lover since BIRTH, so the concept of hunting is totally foreign to me. ESPECIALLY in cases like this, sigh. But I do comprehend the need to control populations, and setting aside natural lands. As a species, though, our first instinct seems to be to kill wildlife. All one has to do is look at the history… Buffalos, birds, alligators, you name it. We’ve nearly wiped out, or HAVE wiped out, too many species due to over-hunting.

      April 20, 2015
      • We may end up wiping ourselves out which would be a kind of sad justice…..hopefully not soon though..

        April 21, 2015
  18. I agree, bear hunting is beyond appalling. Thanks for posting this information so that those of us in other parts of the world can learn what atrocious wildlife management practices are taking place in Florida.

    April 20, 2015
    • Absolutely — and thanks so much for the kind words! I do believe that it’s imperative we all remain aware — especially with regards to what the state (or ANY state) is doing with regards to “managing” wildlife and the natural areas (sigh)….

      April 21, 2015
      • I agree. It’s overwhelming, but the animals thank us in their own way.

        April 24, 2015
  19. Dear Christina, we love bears and to think that the bear hunting ban would be lifted in Florida is truly heartbreaking. Thank you for your awareness post. People need to be educated that wildlife (all life) needs to be protected not destroyed. Hugs, Sharon

    April 21, 2015
    • Thanks so much Sharon, for your kind vote of confidence! Awareness is key — especially with regards to what the state is doing with regards to “managing” wildlife and the natural areas (sigh)….

      April 21, 2015
  20. I am in tears every time I hear of wildlife being attacked and killed by humans who hunt.I ask myself what kind of parenting those people had. i raised four children, three boys and none of them would kill animals or mistreat them. They had a good teacher.
    If I had my way, we would put a ban on hunting. We need to learn to co-exist with bears and wolves and other species. We all have families and we all want to live.
    Another thing to do is to stop eating meat.
    If we love animals, we don’t eat them.
    Life is precious, whatever form it takes.

    September 16, 2015
    • Kudos to you for raising such gentle and understanding souls!

      I can respect the role of hunting in cultures where it is needed, certainly… But in an area where the animal has just recently been on the brink of endangered status is APPALLING. The fact that thousands of guns were pointed to these gentle giants immediately upon the lifting of the ban is just heartbreaking. I too cannot fathom hunting of any kind outside of necessity, but I can entertain certain discussions — even though I simply cannot understand the desire to kill an animal. (I myself have been a vegetarian my ENTIRE life, now 45 years.) And to hunt a species so precarious, with such scarce habitat? There is simply no excuse. It’s shameful. As you say: ALL life is precious. Every bit of it.

      Thanks so very much for your comments! They’re much appreciated. Here’s to the continued efforts to help these amazing animals.

      September 17, 2015

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