Lakeland protesters fight black bear hunting proposal

“Why can't we live with 3,000 bears, I don't get it,” protestor Dianne Koon said.

Protesters against bear hunting in Florida waved signs in Lakeland on Monday.

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Protesters were out Monday trying to sway the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission against giving the green light for bear hunting this fall. A final vote is expected at the Commission’s meeting Wednesday.

The FWC believes it’s time to transition from saving bears to managing bears. But a small group of protesters with great passion believe we’re jumping the gun with the vote.

“Why can’t we live with 3,000 bears, I don’t get it,” protestor Dianne Koon said.

Koon was part of the Florida Voices for Animals who donned signs in the hot sun outside the FWC in Lakeland Monday. Their goal is to share a message that they hope sways any commissioner sitting on the fence about Florida bear hunting.

Three thousand is the estimate the FWC puts on how many bears are in isolated areas of the state. That’s about ten times the count made back in the mid 70’s. The recovery is credited in part to a ban on bear hunting in ’94, but the FWC issued a statement Monday that it’s now time to transition from saving bears to managing bears.

“The primary focus is to control increasing bear populations, and hunting is one tool in our comprehensive approach to overall bear conservation efforts,” FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley stated.

“For them to be making a decision this soon is irresponsible,” Protestor Chris Murphy said. “We don’t feel the bear population has recovered enough,” Dianne Koon stated.

Wednesday’s projected vote comes after four bear attacks in Florida in the past year. If it passes, hunters would be issued permits for one week of hunting in October.

But protesters argue the change should be in how we educate the public about which habits create a “conflict bear”—instead of giving hunters the right to kill them. “Do not feed the bears- and many of those people out there are still feeding the bears,” Marie Gailbraith said.

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