After four bear attacks in 18 months, some legislators are eager to turn the table. It’s been 21 years since the last bear hunt in Florida and a top game official told a Senate panel Wednesday that could change.
Some members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee say they’re eager to pass a law to give hunters the Okay to go after bears.
But Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says that’s not necessary. The commission has bear hunting on its agenda in February, and barring significant opposition, a season could open in the fall.
Officials believe the Florida bear population far exceeds the 3,000 estimate made 10 years ago. Wiley told the panel that hunters could kill 20 percent of the population without causing harm.
But he says hunting alone won’t solve the problem.
“That’s just one tool in our tool box for how we manage bears,” he said.
Wiley says people have to learn how to avoid bears and how to safely store their garbage.
Animal rights activists agree, but warn hunting is not the way to go.
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida’s Don Anthony:
“For a couple of decades they were listed as an endangered threatened species, and now that their numbers are beginning to finally bounce back a little bit, there’s no reason to start the slaughter back up again,” he said.
Last month, 15-year-old Leah Reeder suffered serious injuries to her face and scalp in an attack in East Point. Last week, a 720-pound black bear wandered into an affluent neighborhood in Longwood. Wiley says the bear was 100 pounds heavier than the largest ever recorded in Florida.