Monday, August 30, 2010

Bear hunting in Florida? Maybe

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
About 3,000 bears roam rural Florida from the Florida Panhandle to the Everglades. 
Florida's black bear population has rebounded so much in the last 16 years that bear sightings in residential areas have become an increasingly common occurrence.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking public comment on a draft of a Florida black bear management plan designed to grapple with the issue. The FWC says it wants a healthy bear population that stays in the forests, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Part of the FWC plan includes consideration of reopening bear hunting, which was banned in 1994.

Hunter Newton Cook of Tequesta thinks that's a good idea. "The meat's good, the hide's good," Cook told the Sun Sentinel. He thinks hunting would be a sensible way to reduce some bear populations.

"Hunting is a legitimate sport, very important to maintaining the proper balance of both prey and predator in the wild," said Cook, executive director of the United Waterfowlers of Florida, a duck-hunting group.

Laurie Macdonald, Florida program director of Defenders of Wildlife, opposes the idea. "This is still a threatened species, and we will not support hunting of a species whose future is still questionable," she told the Sun Sentinel.

• See Jeff Klinkenberg's report and video on Jarhead the bear cub in the Ocala National Forest in the St. Petersburg Times.

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