When bears in Florida act aggressively or attack humans, as happened on April 12 when a woman was seriously injured by a bear outside her home in Lake Mary, the incidents are often linked to food. In the Lake Mary neighborhood where the attack occurred, bears were known to go through residents’ trash looking for food. A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokesman described the bears in the area as “food-conditioned” and said they had lost their fear of humans.
Rep. Mike Clelland, who represents Seminole County neighborhoods that have seen recent bear attacks, has suggested requiring residents to use bear-resistant garbage cans. We think this is a great idea. Using bear-resistant garbage cans, along with taking in bird seed and other food items overnight, is a proven effective method of reducing conflicts.
Unfortunately, last week, in a letter sent to the FWC, a group of state lawmakers– Representatives Ben Albritton, Frank Artiles, Halsey Beshears, Jim Boyd, Jason Brodeur, Matt Caldwell, Katie Edwards, Eric Eisnaugle, J.W. Grant, Doug Holder, Ritch Workman and Dana Young– called for a return to bear hunting.
Hunting does not reduce human-bear conflicts. Most conflicts occur in residential neighborhoods where hunting would not be allowed. Rep. Clelland, a voice of reason, explained to the Orlando Sentinel, “It’s not the number of bears that we’re most concerned about — it’s bears interacting with humans. The reason they’re interacting with humans is trash. We can solve that problem with bear-proof cans, not guns.”
Bears were last hunted in Florida in 1993. Although bear populations have increased since hunting was stopped, there are still only approx. 3,000 bears statewide. ARFF will continue to work to make sure bears in Florida remain safe from hunter’s bullets.