Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Bear Hunt Opponents Vow to Fight On

JACKSONVILLE, FL - The fight to save Florida's black bears will go on, as defenders of the bears say after last month's controversial hunt, they are more determined than ever to stop it from becoming an annual event.

                                                                                             Photo: Florida Forrest Service

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have not yet said if there will be another bear hunt in 2016 however, right now state law would allow it.

Adam Sugalski, campaign director for "Stop the Florida Bear Hunt," says his group will continue to challenge the legality of hunting bears.

"We're going to try to depose all the FWC members and see who exactly made this decision," he says. "We need to trace this back, exactly what happened. And that's going to happen."

Over the weekend, hundreds of bear-hunting opponents held a vigil outside Orlando. Last month's hunt, the first since 1994, was intended to last one week but was called off after just two days, as 298 bears had already been killed. The state's objective for the hunt was 320 bears.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission maintains there is a black bear overpopulation problem, estimating about 3,100 in the state. But officials admit that number comes from a 2002 survey, which Sugalski says is just one problem with how the process unfolded.

"When you're shooting lactating mothers, and people shooting cubs, and they killed three times the amount of bears in 24 hours, it really shows this hunt was completely mismanaged from the beginning," says Sugalski. "They didn't have the correct scientific numbers."

Opponents of the hunt say there are other ways the state can work to reduce human interactions with bears, including better management of garbage that lures bears into neighborhoods, and protecting their natural food sources. Black bears were listed on Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species List as recently as 2012.

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