Last week, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to remove the state’s black bears from its list of threatened species. This decision came following a comprehensive biological review conducted by the FWC staff.
Before the threatened designation is finalized, and the bears are officially taken of the list of threatened species, the FWC must adopt a bear management plan. Once complete, the move will give the FWC greater flexibility and more management options in dealing with the state’s growing bear population. This could include allowing bear hunting as a management tool.
The FWC’s black bear study found that the species no longer met any of the criteria required to remain on the state’s threatened list. It also found bear numbers in the state have increased for the past 24 years and continue to increase, that bears are widely distributed throughout the state, and that current bear populations are sustainable.
“USSA and its members strongly support science-based wildlife management and conservation,” said Walter “Bud” Pidgeon, Jr., President and CEO of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “We applaud the Commission for relying on these principles when reviewing the bears’ status instead of succumbing to emotional rhetoric from animal rights activists.”
Animal rights groups have long sought to disrupt the ability of the FWC to manage Florida’s bear population. In 2006, a lawsuit brought by the Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Fund for Animals among others, sought to take management authority away from the state by having the bears listed on the federal Endangered Species List. The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, along with the Central Florida Bear Hunter’s Association, Safari Club International and others intervened in the lawsuit and were successful at stopping this attempt to usurp state wildlife management.
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