Florida bear hunt: Richard Sajko. 48, of Valrico poses with the bears he and his friend Jeff Nale. 61, of Port Charlotte shot on Saturday, 24 October 2015, on private land and brought to Rock Springs Run tagging station in Sorrento. The two men are longtime hunters. Photo: Susan Jacobson / Orlando Sentinel

By Nathan Pemberton
26 October 2015

(New York Magazine) – Florida decided that something had to be done to reduce the number of black bears interacting with humans, who have increasingly been encroaching on their traditional settlement areas, with sometimes unfortunate results.

The state took the measured response of initiating a weeklong statewide bear hunt for the trash-hungry omnivores. It doled out more hunting permits (3,779) than the last known count of the bear population (3,300). The first weekend of bear bloodbath was such a success that officials had to call off the hunt after only 48 hours. The bear body count by that point had already reached 295.

The wildlife commission had set a cap of 320 bears, nearly 10 percent of the state's bear population.

Biologists with Florida's wildlife commission say the high numbers point to a robust and fully recovered bear population.

Just three years ago, the black bear was on the state's endangered-species list. The population was bouncing back from a low of around 300 in 1970, down from 11,000 at its mid-century peak. Hunting was suspended in 1994.

One reason for the "success" of the hunt, besides the zealousness of men in camouflage (approved weapons: shotguns, bows, pistols, revolvers, and crossbows; Ted Nugent also joined in), is, as one official put it, the sheer naïveté of Florida's wild black-bear population. Having not been hunted in two decades has left the population a bit soft in the stomach. "The bears haven't been hunted in 21 years, so they're relatively naive," said one wildlife official to the Tampa Bay Times. In fact, humans are largely to blame for bears being so "meh" about humans, as another official told National Geographic: "If an animal receives food enough so that it loses its fear of people, becomes used to people … Bears did not become this way without people's help." [more]

Florida Called Off Its Big Black-Bear Hunt After It Became a Black-Bear Massacre

Florida bear hunt: FWC wildlife biologist checks the teeth of a large black bear brought to the rock Springs check station. As Florida's first bear hunt in more than four decades is underway, hunters are starting to arrive at check stations throughout Central Florida with their bears Saturday, 24 October 2015. Photo: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel

By Stephen Hudak
25 October 2015

(Orlando Sentinel) – Florida wildlife officials, who closed bear hunting in Central Florida after one day, shut the whole thing down Sunday.

“We started this with harvest objectives that were very conservative and very mindful that we were doing this for the first time in 21 years and there were uncertainties,” Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, said at a Sunday afternoon press conference.

The hunt was scheduled for seven days, and FWC had allowed for 320 bears to be killed.

After two days, 295 were dead. Of these, 139 bears were killed by hunters in Central Florida, 112 in the eastern Panhandle, 23 in the northern region and 21 in the southern region.

The FWC put a stop to the hunt Sunday as the total reached the 320 limit and plans to use information gleaned from this year’s hunt for future management efforts, according to spokeswoman Tammy Sapp. […]

“None of these numbers are worrying to us,” said Thomas Eason, a wildlife biologist nicknamed “Dr. Bear” who serves as director of FWC’s division of habitat and species conservation. “We have large, resilient, growing bear populations.” […]

Volunteers with Speak Up Wekiva, who photographed bears brought into many of the 33 check-in stations, described several of the dead animals as “lactating females.” The state rules allow hunters to kill female bears, but forbid taking a bear with cubs.

The agency’s bear-hunting guide advised hunters to “observe a bear for a while before taking a shot so that you can confidently estimate its size. … Taking your time also helps make sure that an adult female doesn’t have any cubs with her as cubs often don’t show themselves right away.”

Eason said bear cubs are generally born in February, emerge from the den in the early spring and, after eight months or so, “they’ve learned all the skills they need to be able to survived on their own. … We knew there were going to be some [orphaned] in the harvest.”

Despite Eason’s assurances, O’Neal said his group was concerned about the hunt’s hidden toll: wounded bears that scrambled away to die; bears that were killed but not reported; and orphaned cubs that will starve or otherwise not survive alone. [more]

Wildlife officials call off Florida bear hunt after two days



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