Facing a June 24 deadline, animal rights activists made a last-ditch effort Wednesday to convince Governor Rick Scott to halt the first bear hunting season in two decades. The appeal fell on deaf ears.
In a written statement, Scott claimed confidence in his appointed Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is expected to approve the hunting season in two weeks.
But Humane Society national director Kate McFall said commissioners could respond more effectively to the state’s five bear attacks since 2012.
“There seems to be a huge rush to start this hunting and we feel like there should be a huge rush and emphasis on trash management.”
Commission figures released Wednesday show the bear population near the Osceola National Forest alone more than doubled to 549 since 2002. Division director Thomas Eason:
“The numbers that we had from our estimates in the early 2000’s were enough to support a harvest. That’s why we were confident in moving forward.”
Meanwhile, the commission will continue to sponsor education programs that teach residents how not to attract bears, Eason said.
Opponents argue that the bears in hunting areas aren’t the same bears that come to residential neighborhoods to feed. But that’s not how it works, said National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer.
“So, the best way to control the numbers is with controlled hunting. We’ve seen it over and over again with other species.”
The season would begin in October, with bag limits set a one bear per hunter, Eason said.