Dozens of protesters gathered at Lummus Park in Miami Beach on Saturday in opposition to the statewide bear hunt set to take place Oct. 24-30. Organized by a network of volunteers called “Stop the Bear Hunt,” the rally was one of many protests happening across the state.
“We need to respect nature and respect life,” said animal rights activist and protest organizer Alejandro Dintino. “[The bears] deserve to live, just like you and me.”
While black bears were once nearing extinction, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says efforts to preserve the species have been a “conservation success,” and now estimates that the state bear population is over 3,000.
In June, The FWC approved a hunt of 320 bears, as a part of a 10-year population management plan established in 2012. The bears will be hunted in four controlled areas across the state, including a South Florida region that encompasses Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
As Florida’s bear population has grown, bear attacks have also been on the rise in recent years. But Stop the Hunt activists argue that people can do more to keep bears out of residential areas.
“Bears come into neighborhoods looking for food,” explained organizer Daniela Bianchi. If they can’t get into trash bins, “then the bears will get frustrated and leave, and they won’t relate food with humans,” Bianchi said.
According to the FWC, the upcoming hunt is not a response to bear attacks.
So far over 2,000 bear hunting permits have been sold, causing protesters to worry that too many bears will be killed, potentially leaving young cubs without mothers. The state will not limit the amount of permits sold, but the FWC may end the hunt early if the quota is reached.
Speak Up Wekiva, a Florida-based environmental group, filed a lawsuit attempting to bring the hunt to a halt. But earlier in October, Leon County Judge George Reynolds III ruled in favor of the FWC, allowing the hunt to go forward as planned.