Florida OKs bear hunting but not until opponents get a say

June 24, 2015 8:26 am


 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:

Put your ocean voyage on cruise control