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An open letter to the 3,200 people hoping to kill bears over the next week

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Dear Bear Hunters,

It’s strange to me that you consider killing living things a sport. That you smile over the carcass of a once-living thing and revel in your kill both shocks and offends me.

Killing animals for food is one thing – cows are cute, but I love me some steak – but to do it for “sport” just seems sick.

But even though I don’t get it, I do understand that there is a time and a place for hunting. Allowing for regulated hunting seasons can effectively control nuisance animals.

I don’t blame you, hunter. You’ve been told the Florida black bear is a nuisance animal. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told you the bear population had come booming back since being removed from the endangered species list.

They told you people were being attacked because bears were encroaching into neighborhoods.

What you may not have been told, you 3,200 hunters who have received permits to hunt these once endangered animals, is that it’s their land that’s been encroached upon.

In our effort to grow and grow and grow, we’ve eliminated about 82 percent of bears’ habitat.

But what’s done is done. Growing populations need shopping malls and cookie-cutter homes on picturesque cul-de-sacs. I get it.

But hunters, did you know there are ways to control these populations and keep human-bear interactions from being a nuisance?

To control the populations, we could shoot the bears not with lethal bullets, but with darts containing birth control hormones to limit the number of bears that reproduce.

To keep them from our neighborhoods and parks that abut rural land, we could better secure our trash. Ever been to the mountains? The cardinal rule at any cabin rental is to secure the lids on outdoor trash.

See, while you’re looking for a hunt, they’re just looking for food. Make them have to find it elsewhere – where there aren’t humans – and the problem is addressed.

And here’s the other thing, hunters: We’re not even really sure how many bears there are in Florida. Did you know that the last time a population survey was done was in 2002?

So, when FWC commissioners tell you there are 3,500, we don’t actually know that’s the case. And here’s the other interesting thing: There will be a survey next year.

Why not tuck away your guns and crossbows until we know for sure whether the population has truly rebounded? There are plenty of other nuisance animals you could go after. I hear wild boar are quite pesky.

The commission set a limit for 320 kills during the next week. That means only 10 percent of those who purchased a permit will find their “prize.” While there will be 33 stations throughout the hunting zones established and fines associated with not reporting a kill, how do we know that threshold will be honored?

And consider this, a good chunk of the FWC Commission is composed of land developers. They ignored 40,000 comments against the hunt. And 75 percent of all comments made in regards to hunting bears were opposed to it.

Do you really think it’s a good idea to go forward with this?

Consider this a last-minute plea. Don’t go hunting an animal fresh off the endangered species list when we don’t have all the facts or data when a completely biased group made the decision.

And hunters, if you disagree and ignore my plea, please consider urging the FWC to use the proceeds from this ill-advised sanction to unnecessarily kill bears for humane ways of dealing with bear attacks.

With 3,200 permits issued, about $300,000 has poured into the state. It’s blood money, for sure. But perhaps it can do some good by being used to promote actual conservation.

Signed,

Compassionate, Rational Human Being

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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