With Florida’s black bear population rising dramatically and human conflicts on the rise, bears may be under fire again.
Black bear encounters and attacks are becoming an increasingly common story in Florida’s suburban neighborhoods, prompting state agencies to possibly authorize the first Florida black bear hunt since the 1990s.
Florida put a stop to bear hunting in the 1990s because the population was under pressure from intense urban development. But that’s no longer the case. The Florida black bear population has risen from 1,300 bears in 1994 to over 3,000 today, more than doubling in 21 years.
Bears have an instinct to build up fat reserves for hibernation over the winter. However, Florida black bears have no real reason to hibernate because it stays so warm year-round. As a result, garbage cans are often raided and homes even invaded to find easy food sources. This is where the problems occur.
Sometimes this activity traps residents in their homes, or people are attacked. In the last year, there have been four Florida black bear attacks on residents of the “bear zone.”
Terri Frana survived such an attack. According to Frana, “[the bear] opened her jaw and clamped down onto my head…I could just hear her teeth marks going through my scalp.”
Scott Plakon, a Florida legislator believes something needs to be done. The State trapped three bears in his front yard in only two days. Plakon told NBC,
When it comes down to a bear vs. human conflict, which we’ve now seen and we’ve seen injuries and thank God no deaths, then it’s people first. Bears second.
However, opponents such as Kate Macfall of the Florida Humane Society do not believe hunting will solve the issue of human-bear conflicts.
Florida officials are encouraging residents of the “bear zone” to carry bear mace (or pepper spray) instead of weapons until a decision is made.