Richard Sajko

Richard Sajko with his 2015 Florida black bear

State game commissioners agreed Wednesday not to hold a bear hunt for at least two years, over the objections of hunters who decried the delay as giving in to “bleeding hearts.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, after more than four hours of emotional testimony from hunters and animal-rights activists, narrowly supported a staff contention that public support isn’t as high as desired for a repeat of a controversial 2015 hunt.

The delay would allow staff members to complete an ongoing 10-year bear management plan which could be completed in two to three years.

Commissioner Liesa Priddy said she wasn’t concerned that a majority of Floridians don’t support a bear hunt.

“There’s really no scientific reason whatsoever not to have a hunt,” Priddy said. “We can’t substitute politics for science. And if we don’t approve a hunt today, we’re really just throwing the science that we’ve gathered out the window.”

Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley said the agency’s science is “rock solid” on the side of a hunt. But, he said “we need more time” to work on nonlethal bear management practices. He pointed, in part, to research that shows far less support among Floridians for bear hunting than for hunting in general.

Read the rest of the release at News Chief