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FWC - Bear Hunt, Florida Panther Population

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Weeks after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission voted almost unanimously to revive the practice of hunting black bears in the state, a coalition of environmental groups has filed suit to block the hunt.

Seminole County's Speak up Wekiva was joined by the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters of Florida, and others in asking a court to consider the constitutionality of the FWC's decision. They say that it’s the FWC’s job to protect natural resources, not put them in the line of fire.

Only three years ago, black bears were considered endangered in Florida. Today, the state estimates that there are 2,500 to 3,000 bears in the state – but in a June interview with the Tampa Bay Times, FWC executive director Nick Wiley said the commission doesn't really know how large the population is. That’s because the FWC’s official count doesn’t even conclude until next year.

The goal of Speak up Wekiva's suit was to block the sale of bear-hunting permits until a court can resolve the matter. The agency went ahead with its plan and began selling bear-hunting permits anyway on Monday, Aug. 3.

Bears aren’t the only animal the FWC has in its sites these days, either. The critically endangered Florida panther is becoming a nuisance.

“Panther populations are straining and currently exceed the tolerance of landowners, residents and recreationists in the region,” according to a recent FWC policy memo that the animals may no longer need the “endangered” designation they’ve had since the 1970s.

How many panthers does it take for the FWC to consider them a nuisance? Not many – recent estimates put the entire Florida panther population at just about 180.