Education, garbage control, new habitat, and do the science were urged Wednesday as Floridians weighed in on bear hunting. Birth control for bears, potshots, and “rednecks” figured in the mix, too. A 15-year-old girl named Hanna was heckled. And FWC commissioner Richard Corbett was often in the crosshairs because of a teddy bear quote.
That was before lunch. Then after 6½ hours, bear hunting in Florida returned after 21 years when commissioners for the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 5-1 to approve the measure. Commissioner Ron Bergeron was the holdout -- a "blacksheep," he called himself.
Florida’ black bear — a state symbol for wildlife conservation — was legally protected until three years ago. The FWC says the bear population is growing and the iconic creature is no longer threatened.
A one-week bear hunting season will be an annual event. This year's hunt is Oct. 24-30.
Hundreds attended an occasionally tense meeting that occasionally veered off course. There were charges of corruption, blood lust, even murder. Many speakers provided sobering analysis and statistics. Several out-of-state speakers were heard. Roughly 100 signed up to speak and those who opposed bear hunting outnumbered supporters by about 3 to 1.
Here is a live collection of tweets from the FWC meeting in Sarasota. Check back for updates:
All in favor, except Bergeron.— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
The FWC is now asking questions of staff & discussing the proposed rule. The last speaker's genuine comments were welcomed. #FWC2015— Jen (@JenBLeon) June 24, 2015
Last speaker before lunch break says this seems like a continuation of "our blood-thirsty desire for species domination." #bearhunting— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
"We harvest carrots, we kill bears. They're not the same thing," speaker says.— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
Specifically, Commissioner Corbett says, "I was totally misquoted by Craig Pittman (@craigtimes)." The people don't buy it.— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
Corbett, after a number of people have brought up his quote -- "Those people don't know what they're talking about" -- says he was misquoted— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
Too far away for pic, but I just spotted man with blue shirt that reads: "If idiots grew on trees this place would be an orchard." #FWC2015— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
Bob Andrew president of Southwest Florida Gamesman Association: "I'd rather see them (bears) regulated than starve to death."— Topher Forhecz (@ForheczT) June 24, 2015
Andreu: “When you’re raising your kids there’s a certain amount of tough love you gotta do. ... You gotta manage the wildlife”— Zack Sampson (@ZackSampson) June 24, 2015
"We are here today because bear conservation in Florida has been successful." - HGM Director Diane Eggeman #FWC2015— MyFWC (@MyFWC) June 24, 2015
Bear hunting is up for debate in Sarasota at a meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. pic.twitter.com/rkCwkm7s8X— Ian Cummings (@iancummings4) June 24, 2015
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