Florida Releases Bear Management Plan

Florida Fish and Wildlife, Bear Hunting Magazine

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released their draft management plan for black bears whose numbers have soared over the last thirty years. The plan is intended to reduce interactions between bears and people, cut down on road kills, increase the populations of geographically isolated groups of bears and protect bear habitat from the massive development expected in the coming decades. The plan would, however, maintain the ban on hunting them.

“Black bears have really recovered strongly in Florida,” stated Nick Wiley, the agency's executive director. “It’s a major conservation success story.”

But, the number of bear incident calls to the wildlife commission has risen from 84 in 1990 to 4,190 last year. Over the same period, roadkills of bears rose from 33 to 165. The plan calls for the creation of “Bear Smart” communities in bear habitat to secure garbage and take other steps to protect bears and people.

While there have been no known unprovoked black bear attacks on people in Florida, black bears in other states have been responsible for fatal attacks. And in Florida, there have been incidents in which bears approached dangerously close. After public hearings are held around the state, the draft plan will go for approval or revision to the wildlife commission, a seven-member board appointed by the governor.

The state’s plan deals carefully with the issue of bear hunting, banned in Florida since 1994. Although the plan would continue the ban, it leaves open the possibility of discussing the question in the future. “Despite its common use as a management tool, bear hunting remains a complex issue in Florida requiring extensive stakeholder engagement,” the plan states. “…Any further consideration of bear hunting after the approval of this plan would require additional direction from the Commission.”

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