The FLTWS Executive Board and other FLTWS members developed a Florida Chapter Position Statement on the 2016 bear hunt being considered by the FWC commissioners at their June Commission meeting. Our statement specifically did not address any of the four bear hunting options presented by FWC staff, and did not endorse the staff’s recommendation of Option #2. It did, however, endorse the North American Model and recognized hunting as a legitimate management tool. We expressed support for a limited bear hunt, provided that several issues were adequately addressed. A paraphrase of these provisions follows:
1. establishment of measurable harvest objectives for each of Florida’s bear sub-populations,
2. that the best available science be used to determine if objectives are met,
3. that harvest be monitored and mechanisms put in place to adjust harvest strategies in a timely manner, and
4. Objective 2 of the Black Bear Management Plan, which (among other things) is designed to ensure habitat connectivity between sub-populations, be made a top priority.
The Commission Meeting was held on June 22nd in Eastpoint. Hugh Boyter, accompanied by Holly Ober and Larry Perrin, presented our position statement to the Commissioners, along with more than 80 other speakers from the general public and other organizations. Hugh did an excellent job and represented the Florida Chapter well on an issue that was very controversial.
The four FWC staff bear hunting options were:
1. conduct a bear hunt similar to the 2015 bear hunt
2. conduct a more conservative and more tightly controlled bear hunt for 2016,
3. postpone the bear hunt for 2016 and revisit the issue in 2017, and
4. drop bear hunting altogether.
The Commissioners voted (4 to 3) for option 3, to postpone the bear hunt for 2016 and revisit the issue in 2017.
This experience is a good example of FLTWS’ ability to provide unbiased, sound scientific information and recommendations, while not becoming embroiled in the emotions or politics of wildlife issues. We hope to have more such opportunities in the future that showcase our ability to serve as Florida’s resource for credible, responsible scientific advice.