Chuck O’Neal with Speak Up Wekiva and Senator Darren Soto have introduced a bill to restore and protect the habitat of our wildlife, in particular our bears.
As you know there has been a lot going on in the news about our black bears. There is so much I could tell you about them and the issues surrounding them that you probably
don’t even know. Most people don’t.
Their food sources in their habitat have been stripped. In some areas of the state the saw palmetto berries are so heavily harvested there are none left for the bears or other wildlife that depend on them.
Saw palmettos berries, according to one biologist is the most vital food source for bears.
These berries become ripe at a time when bears have to pack on pounds to survive winter
when they will lose up to 25% of their body weight. If a female doesn’t get enough food
her pregnancy will terminate.
For years our state forestry service sold permits for $10 a day for people to harvest these
berries on state land. Most of them are harvested by migrant workers who find themselves
out of work at the same time. They go into the forests and scrubs and pick tons upon tons
Just recently in June of this year a temporary moratorium was put on the harvesting of these
important berries by the commissioner of agriculture. This is only a one year ban. This will
hardly give the bears time to figure out that this natural food source is once again available
to them in their habitat.
Along with the saw palmetto berries, developments and deforestation is taking away much needed trees that produce acorns which are also needed for food by the bears and other wildlife. In one area of Ocala they are cutting down all the turkey oaks saying they are invasive even though they’ve been there for hundred years and produce much needed acorns.
It has been shown that when bears are not getting enough food in their habitat they will go out of it to find it. Many bears are now being found in neighborhoods throughout Florida foraging for food. And they find it in the source of garbage not properly kept by the homeowners.
The Black Bear Habitat Rehabilitation Act also addresses this problem. For too long governmental agencies, who were responsible for wildlife food resources and safety of citizens, have failed. We now have a problem on our hands and their go to answer was to kill the bears instead of using non-lethal methods.
With food sources back in tact, garbage secured, and everyone becoming bear wise, we should see a change in a short time without the need to kill our bears.
Please read more about this act.