In a stunning reversal from its decision last year to authorize the state’s first bear hunt since 1994, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted this week not to proceed with a trophy hunt in 2016, sparing as many as 400 bears and acknowledging the overwhelming expression of public sentiment that the hunt is the wrong strategy for handling bears.
Commissioner and businessman Ron Bergeron led the no-hunt effort for the FWC, and he was joined by Bo Rivard, Robert Spottswood, and Chairman Brian Yablonski. Our thanks go to these commissioners for heeding the will of the public and hitting the pause button on this unnecessary, unwarranted hunt.
On the weekend prior to the vote late Wednesday night, there were 28 demonstrations at major cities throughout Florida, with thousands of people opposed to the hunt making their presence felt on the ground. Major newspapers throughout the state condemned the idea of proceeding with a hunt and advised the FWC and citizens to focus on better managing trash as a way to minimize encounters between people and bears. Even hunters spoke out against the proposal — noting the small, fragmented population, the enormous growth of the human population in the state and the development that accompanies it, and the gratuitous purposes of the hunt, with the bears being shot not for food but for bragging rights and trophies. The collective threats to the bears led The HSUS and other groups to file a petition earlier this year to add Florida black bears to the list of federally endangered species.
Just as we turned around the plan in New Hampshire to open up a trophy hunting and trapping season on bobcats, with an enormous outpouring of public support for maintaining protections for the animals, we’ve now done the same in Florida. My thanks to all of the groups and individuals who joined this remarkable effort; the animal protection community pulled together in an extraordinary way and flexed its muscle on this issue. It’s just a one-year reprieve, however, and the FWC will examine the question once again next year. It’s important to stay focused on defending and protecting this outcome, while also celebrating this tremendous victory and this stay of execution for the bears.
There has been a string of major wildlife victories in the past week:
- Rhode Island lawmakers passed a bill (HB 8197) to ban the use of bullhooks to wield against captive elephants in the circus. If Governor Gina Raimondo signs the bill, it will be the first state in the nation to enact this policy, with California expected to follow suit soon. Lawmakers in Rhode Island have also passed a bill, now signed by the governor, to ban the sale of shark fins, making the Ocean State the 11th to ban selling fins for soup. (This week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate, led by Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, and Representatives Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Gregorio Kilili Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands, introduced a bill to ban any import, export, trade, and sales of shark fins, offering the prospect of cracking down on the trade everywhere in the United States.)
- The Georgia Aquarium, which planned to acquire 18 belugas caught in the wild by a private company in Russia, and was blocked from doing so by The HSUS in the courts and by the Obama Administration, relented this week and said it would permanently terminate any plans to acquire dolphins or whales from the wild.
- We also defeated a bill aimed at repealing New York’s decades-long ban on cruel snare traps, which would have allowed the “relaxing” lock, neck snare. The measure would have permitted snaring of coyotes and other wildlife in all but five counties in the state.
- The HSUS is known for our dog, cat, and horse rescues – from Arkansas to North Carolina to China – but we also have a wildlife rescue team. This week, we did one of our biggest such rescues, moving over 500 prairie dogs from a federal installation in Kansas that was threatening to poison them to death to a ranch run by a private landowner interested in conserving native wildlife.
At The HSUS, we fight for all animals, including the wild ones, whether free or captive. We’ll keep advocating on their behalf, and with your support, shielding them from people who want to kill them for trophies or their fur or confine them in dangerous ways for exhibition.