TALLAHASSEE The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed on Thursday that the state will not conduct a bear hunt this year.
Concerns that hunting could be on the agenda brought animal rights activists to a commission meeting at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront on Thursday.
But a spokeswoman for the commission said the agency had not scheduled discussions about bear hunting, which would be needed to establish rules and permit requirements.
“Earlier this year, FWC commissioners asked staff to provide an update on Florida’s black bears at a future Commission meeting, however a date for that update has yet to be set,” spokeswoman Lisa Thompson said in an email.
Kate McFall, representing the Humane Society, was among bear hunt opponents who addressed the commission on Thursday.
“The public does not support it. Hunting in 2015, unfortunately, caused a lot of criticism of the agency and negative press in the country,” she said. “The FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) is doing amazing work like spring protection, pelican protection work, your strong response to CWD (chronic wasting), progress on non-native wildlife. Obviously too many to list. Therefore, we encourage you to focus on the great work being done here in Florida and avoid unforced errors.”
The commission last approved a bear hunt in 2015, the first time in more than two decades.
The hunt was advertised as slowing the growth of black bears in the state and reducing dangerous interactions between bears and humans.
The 2015 bear harvest was scheduled to last a week in four parts of the state, with 320 bears expected to be killed. Instead, the hunt was canceled two days later as the bear death toll quickly reached 304.
In 2019, the commission approved a 10-year plan for bears that primarily emphasizes the use of training and non-lethal animal management techniques.
According to the plan, hunting remains an option if interaction between bears and humans escalates amid an increase in the number of people in the state.
As of 2017, the commission estimated that there were 4,050 black bears living in Florida. Over the past five years, the state has averaged 5,765 bear calls per year, according to the commission. There were 5907 calls in 2022 compared to 5738 in 2021.