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Wednesday, 15 June 2016 13:19

No bear hunt this year! 4-3 vote

Written by  Sandra Clinger

Updated June 23, 2016 at 5:25pm
Florida wildlife mismanagement / Black bear hunt

Good news, bears! No hunting for you in Florida this year

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-3 against a hunt

Last October’s hunt, scheduled for a week with a goal of 321 bears, ended after just 2 days because 304 bears had been killed

Further study of issues related to the bear population have been requested, and a hunt in 2017 remains a possibility

Miami Herald, by Craig Pittman, Tampa Bay Times, June 22, 2016
       
EASTPOINT
In a surprise move, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 4-3 late Wednesday to hold off on having a second bear hunt later this year.

The vote marks a major change from last year, when the wildlife commissioners voted 6-1 to go ahead with Florida’s first bear hunt in 21 years, which was held in October despite strong public opposition.

The change in attitude was made more remarkable by the venue for Wednesday’s all-day meeting, the tiny Panhandle town of Eastpoint, where two of Florida’s five bear attacks on humans have occurred. Commission executive director Nick Wiley said that was just a coincidence. ...

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article85428442.html

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No bear hunt this year, state officials say

Orlando Sentinel, by Gray Rohrer, Tallahassee Bureau, June 22, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – There will not be a state-sanctioned bear hunt this year because Florida Fish & Wildlife commissioners voted Wednesday night to delay a decision on another hunt until 2017.

"I'm leaning toward a pause," said FWC chair Brian Yablonski. "I don't think a pause means hunting goes away forever."

The 4-3 vote came after more than eight hours of public testimony at meeting in the Panhandle town of Eastpoint, with most speakers opposed to a second bear hunt in as many years. …

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-bear-hunt-fwc-decision-20160622-story.html

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Posted June 15, 2016 / Updated June 20, 2016 at 8:50pm
Florida wildlife mismanagement in Rick Scott's corrupt Florida, cont'd.

Sandra Clinger reveals the glaring deficiencies in FWC's discussions about Florida's black bears -- too typical of Rick Scott's administration. Two things: 1) Saturday June 18 is bear hunt protest time all across Florida! 2) Be sure to give your opinion in the FWC bear hunt survey, see link below.
-- SCPA Editor

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YOU can help stop the black bear hunt in Florida!
By Sandra Clinger

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is gearing up for another black bear trophy hunt for 2016 and the bears need our help. 

Stop the Black Bear Trophy Hunt Protests
11am-1pm Saturday, June 18 in 28 cities across Florida
Titusville: corner of SR 405 (Garden Street) and US 1 (NEW LOCATION)
Melbourne: 1212 E Strawbridge Ave, just east of US Hwy 1
Leaflets and other information will be provided.
More info:
https://www.facebook.com/stopbearhunt/events (new link)
http://stopflbearhunt.com/

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) meeting
FWC will be discussing and likely deciding on another bear hunt at their next meeting June 22, near Apalachicola, Florida.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 8:30 am
Franklin County School Gymnasium
1250 US Highway 98
Eastpoint, Florida 32328 (near Apalachicola in northwest Florida)

BELOW IS A SUMMARY of my frustrating experience participating on the June 2, webinar conducted by FWC and where everyone can just click at the link, then click submit comments and type in the selected option. Only Option 4 opposes the Black Bear trophy hunt. Please share with your friends, while we don’t have many black bear in Brevard County, we DO and SHOULD have a voice in how the FWC is managing (or mismanaging) our wildlife species. Thank you!

Please take a moment and vote NO to another trophy hunt of Black Bears in Florida! The horrors of what happened in 2015 were carried across the country and internationally, with so many bears killed in 48 hours that they had to stop it.

Lactating females, undersize bears, bears with corn in their teeth from deer feeders (yet not considered baiting by FWC) were all documented. Little surprise, given that they offered an unlimited number of permits (3,776 permits were sold to hunters nearly 1 to 1 the number of hunters to bears). The FWC touted this as a well managed and a  “successful harvest.” Just reading the survey options it is crystal clear the pro-hunt bias of the FWC. Also three of the four options include a bear hunt, so undoubtedly they will present anything but Option 4 as supporting bear hunting in Florida.
 
Only Option 4 opposed another Black Bear trophy hunt, the other three options support black bear hunting in differing versions. 

FWC BEAR HUNT SURVEY

Make your opinion known! This elementary survey is easy. Your opinions are important.

FWC Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2016BearHuntSurvey

• • •
 
Below is my review of the FWC webinar on black bears. 

FWC Black Bear Webinars -- 3 hours of frustration

In October 2015 a black bear trophy hunt happened in Florida and the FWC is gearing up to do it again. On Thursday June 2, I spent 3 incredibly frustrating hours on FWC’s black bear webinar. After the FWC made their presentation a moderator selected questions for the FWC from the public (via text/chat and email) watching online and listening by phone. They were asked many specific questions relating and responded with generic answers straight out of their press releases, contradictions, half-truths, misinformation, fear mongering or they avoided answering question asked all together. Many times the contradictions occurred only seconds apart. There was no opportunity to follow up, question further, or  even point out that the question hadn’t even been answered. It was in a word, infuriating.
 
The FWC is presenting population study results to the public and widely touting it as “sound science” and cutting edge. Yet when you read the actual reports, Page 1 of the 2015 and 2016 Black Bear Population Estimate Technical reports  states, “This report contains preliminary data that have not yet undergone scientific peer review and are thus not suitable for citing.”

That’s not stopping FWC. For months now the FWC has been distributing this data, presenting it to the public as “sound science” and making decisions relying on data that is incomplete and not peer reviewed -- a little fact not included on the graphic that went to media outlets.

The FWC’s most recent population estimate studies, modeling with caveats, and extrapolation of data may be perfectly fine, but until it is complete and has gone through rigorous peer review you don’t put it out as if it has. This is the opposite of sound scientific principles.
 
There is so much more wrong. The FWC acknowledges that their baseline study (Simek, 2002) had different coverage and effort (leaving some populations out completely) and they themselves say (in the 2012 Black Bear Management Plan) the population estimates from this study were "conservative and low." Seemingly ignoring that important detail the FWC goes on to compare that artificially low population estimate against the 2015/2016 population estimate study data to get the percent population growth figure widely distributed. When questioned during the webinar the staff person who answered the question actually said, “that means the percent population growth should be even higher.” Doah! Ummm no,  that’s just not the way math works.   
 
Even if you ignore the fact the FWC is comparing data from studies with different coverage and effort (and I am definitely not saying you should) when the baseline data is artificially low any measured increase with newer data will be artificially HIGH because the calculated difference between the two population estimates is larger than it really is. But that larger number sells the "we have to hunt" story better.
 
When asked about bears being baited/habituated on private lands, where most bears were killed in 2015, the FWC completely contradicted themselves. In one breath they say we have no idea how many deer corn feeders are out in black bear habitat (habituating and baiting bears), and in nearly the next breath say their officers have "relationships" with landowners so they “have a handle on it.”  How can you have a handle on something you don't know? It’s pretty easy to see how many, so many shy, and illusive black bears were found and killed less than 48 hours. Observers photographed bear with corn still in their teeth. How convenient deer season overlapped the black hunt. I expect bears ARE easy to find when they are coming to feeders and are naive of hunting. Grrrrr.
 
Every answer given was clearly to support another bear hunt in 2016. Every assumption on their part was to justify another trophy hunt. The only enjoyable part was when the question was asked "why were black bears listed as endangered in Florida to begin with, the verbal gymnastics the FWC staff did to avoid saying it was HUNTING was absurd. He went all the way back to colonization of Florida -- that was hilarious.
 
The comments by Thomas Eason were particularly hunt-focused. He is a politician masquerading as a scientist. Listening to him you would think black bears breed like mosquitoes spilling out of the forests and roving neighborhoods like thugs menacing children and old ladies. The few black bear-human conflicts that have occurred, were all involving access to human garbage (or in one insane case where one neighbor had been feeding the bears) and in each and every case were defensive on the part of the bear. When questioned, the FWC confirmed they were all defensive. The inflammatory rhetoric and fear mongering of overblown threats by the FWC was particularly disappointing. Doooommmm await us all if they don't hunt! 
 
Mr. Eason was quick to point out more bears will be hit by cars if they don't hunt. Well, sadly more bears will be hit by cars regardless with the 1 million more people a year moving to Florida. I don’t see anyone working on growth management of the human side of the equation. Oh yes, that’s right, Governor Scott effectively did away with that.  
 
They say the Central Florida BMU is at carrying capacity. Is this based on scientific study? No, its because they say people are seeing bears where they haven’t before. Completely subjective conclusion based on anecdotal data. While it MAY be true, but it is certainly not the only plausible explanation. Maybe there has been substantial development in the Central BMU and bears have been displaced and had to move into other areas looking for suitable habitat. Did the FWC do any investigation or analysis of the amount of development pressure that has occurred in this BMU? No. Instead they just concluded there must be too many bears, and we have to hunt them.
 
In one breath FWC says people aren’t educated about bears, then the FWC turns around and says the FWC has been doing tons to educate people about bears for years and its a pillar of their bear management plan. So are they saying they have just done a really bad job of educating the public?
 
Bear habitat is fragmented, subpopulations are largely isolated, the wildlife corridor project is idle and Amendment 1 money is misappropriated. Good grief it's maddening.
 
While we don't have virtually any black bears in Brevard, we all have a say in how Florida Wildlife is managed or mismanaged. Counties and cities around the state (representing over 6 million Florida residents so far) have passed resolutions opposing another black bear hunt and asking FWC to reinstate the black bear hunt ban. Sadly, Brevard County Commission isn't one of them.....yet.
 
In the 2015 bear hunt, 38 lactating females were killed leaving unknown number of cubs orphaned. While the FWC likes to say the cubs CAN survive alone at around 8 months, it clearly makes it less likely they will after losing their mom nearly a year early. Black bear moms wouldn't expend the tremendous energy producing milk and caring for cubs for that extra year if it didn't increase their likelihood of survival. Hunters actually gleefully described pulling bawling cubs off their dead mothers as they discussed their hunt with FWC staff -- a n image I can't get out of my head now.
 
YOU CAN HELP keep this shameful trophy hunt from happening again. There are many non-lethal management actions the FWC should be focused on to achieve a sustainable connected black bear population in Florida. Black bears are shy by nature and will try avoid conflict. They run away, bluff and avoid direct eye contact. Their survival mechanism is to run and hide and climb a tree if necessary. They will flee, even being chased up a tree when being chased off by a domestic cat.   
 
Join the movement Stop the Bear Hunt!
 
Sorry this is a bit of a long rant, I am still so angry after the webinar. You can contact me if you want more info and want to know how to get involved. The bears will need us all to overcome the forces at work. Now the NRA is weighing in and guess which side they are on. I'll give you a hint it's not the bears.

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Sandra Clinger has a Masters Degree in Coastal Resource Management and spent her career working on manatee conservation at the Florida Dept. of Natural Resources, the Brevard County Office of Natural Resources, and Save the Manatee Club. Now retired, she advocates for Florida's natural ecosystems and wildlife.

Last modified on Friday, 08 July 2016 10:23
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