EDITORIAL: Bear boosters trump biology once again

It looks as if the black bear has been put in “time out” by state wildlife biologists.

 

Florida state game commissioners agreed Wednesday to give the bruin a pass for at least two more years in terms of being fair game for state hunters. For now, there will be no open hunting season for Florida’s black bears for at least another two years.

Predictably hunters are peeved with all the mamby-pamby Bambi lovers and other wildlife “bleeding hearts.” And they’re aiming their ire correctly.

Though wildlife commissioners halted this year’s bear hunt, you can bet they were not happy about it.

No, it was you mamby-pamby folks who made sufficient noise that the FWC commissioners apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valor when it came to the life and times of Ursus americanus. And may the force stay with you on that.

Florida opened up black bear hunting in 2015. It’s important to understand that the FWC is notorious for actually using actual biological data and common sense in setting limits on state critters and fishes.

In no case we can find, have the numbers of fish, mammals or reptiles been close to any kind of collapse under state control. Most remain at all-time highs.

The same most certainly cannot be said of federal management — in Florida’s case fish. Politics trump science every time and there is no better poster child for federal ineptitude than the American Red Snapper. But that’s another story.

The black bear, historically, roamed every quadrant of Florida, including some of the keys. Very bad management left the bear population habitat spread thinly over just an estimated 18 percent of the state by the 1970s. Today that number is rising to an estimated 48 percent of the state. In the ‘70s bear populations were estimated at 300 to 500. Today it’s closer to 4,000.

The area from St. Johns and Flagler Counties west through Ocala is among the more robust in the state in terms of black bear populations in the state. Being newspaper folk, we hear of probably any and every encounter between bears and residents. And we hear very little.

That was the impetus used to open the season in 2015 — that bears and humans were too often coming into contact with one another.

And FWC scientists figured it would be an easier sell killing off a certain percentage of bears than residents to slow the chafing of the two.

In 2015, the hunt was capped, and 304 bears were harvested after just two days into the weeklong hunt.

This will come up again. And next time the numbers may actually demand that some number of bears be taken out of the wild.

But, from all our long experience with the FWC squints, there will be data to back it up. And if anything, bears will be better spread throughout the state for their protection and to decrease the incidents of those rare meetings between them and us.

Remember, they’re not encroaching on us. It’s the other way around.

And should you have one in proximity, the best way to ensure it’s demise is putting out snacks. In bear management, the maxim is “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

 

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