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Leon Judge Refuses To Halt Bear Hunt


Florida’s first bear hunt in more than 20 years should be able to proceed later this month says Leon Circuit Judge George Reynolds III. Reynolds denied an environmental group’s request for a temporary injunction Thursday.

Reynolds listened to testimony from wildlife biologists for the state and the environmental group Speak Up Wekieva for more than four hours, frequently interrupting to ask his own questions.

But in the end, Reynolds said he was satisfied the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission can enforce strict limits on the hunt and halt it when the 320-bear limit is reached.

“The commission is making every effort that it can to address all of the concerns of those who would like to hunt on a recreational basis and those who believe that the population must be managed.”

Attorneys for the commission say the hunt will likely begin October 24th Meanwhile, the group’s complaint that the commission is shirking its constitutional duty to protect wildlife, will continue.

Stand up Wekiva executive director Chuck O’Neal, the chief plaintiff, said he is willing to take that battle to the Florida Supreme Court.

“This hunt is unconstitutional. It is opposed by the voters who created this commission. And whether it takes the Supreme Court to make that decision, we’ll leave it to the Supreme Court.”

More than 2,360 bear hunting permits had been issued by Thursday.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.