There’s confusion over the state’s plans on whether Florida might hold a black bear hunt this year.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Susan Neel told the Phoenix Monday that “There is not going to be a hunt this year,” but then walked that statement back two hours later.
“As directed by our Commissioners two years ago, we have been focused on updating and revising FWC’s Bear Management Plan before considering future bear hunts,” FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said in a written statement. “We plan to release the updated plan for public comment in early October and present to Commissioners this December. In terms of a bear hunt in the future, the updated plan will fully address bear hunting and any decisions in that regard will be up to our commission.”
Advocates for the shy bears, which number about 4,400 in Florida, were concerned that the state might re-stage a bear hunt next fall. Given the commission’s time frame, it’s unlikely that a hunt would staged in 2019.
For the first time in decades, Florida held a controversial black bear hunt in 2015. But the state ended up halting the week-long hunt after just two days because hunters had already killed 304 bears.
After the hunt, state wildlife scientists were directed to take a deeper look at the health of the population. Florida’s black bears are fragmented in several different populations, and their biggest threats are habitat loss, getting hit by cars, and being euthanized because they become “nuisance” bears that grow too familiar with humans.
Florida’s black bears were put on the threatened species list in 1974. The bears were removed from the threatened species list in 2012.