This is just a few of the areas and reasons FWC killed some of our bears in 2015.
Nick Wiley did not disclose that he is the executive director of FWC in the recently published article he wrote to the Orlando Sentinel. As executive director he is clearly
biased and so that articlle should be read as tongue in cheek, or fingers crossed behind the back.
Regarding the number of bear calls in 2002 – The bears were still on the endangered list.
In 2015 – The bears were not and FWC was asking people to call if they even saw a bear!
I’d say they were working their spin to get people to agree to a hunt. Not that people’s opinion matter but it’s better to instill fear, such as Marion Hammer with the NRA just did by saying bears are terrorizing our neighborhoods! What a lie! And that’s all we get from such hunting biased organizations and people.
The count of 4,350 did not deduct the over 600 bears killed last year!!! How’s that for spinning the truth?
I’m sick of all the lies just to try to justify a hunt that should not take place to please the mere 1% of the hunting populace in the state.
The bears are wandering out of their areas because people are feeding them and the forest are being dozed down. The oaks trees are being replaced with long-leaf slash pine which offers no food. The saw palmetto berries are being raped by illegals who sell them to the pharmaceutical industry. Wiley failed to emphasize the enormous problem there is with that! Omission of truth is lying!
Wiley mentioned the number of road kills. This in itself is controlling the numbers of bears along with the 129 that FWC killed last year and natural deaths. No need for a hunt.
We have “thousands of human-bear conflicts a year?” Seriously? A person seeing a bear in their yard is NOT a conflict! Keep it real. When you say these thing you know people are going to think there was interaction and that people were in danger! Shame on you!
Bears have increased all over the United States. Not just Florida. It’s not so much to do with FWC as it is with nature. And left to their own, nature will take care of the populations and control them.
For those reading this who do not know, “conservation” according to FWC includes hunting – killing. They do not “conserve.” They are mandated to provide hunting opportunities for hunters. That is their job!
The reason for Nick Wiley writing this article is to make the public trust the FWC in making the decision for having another bear hunt. Pure and simple.
Unfortunately, The Orlando Sentinel did not allow people who are not subscribers to even comment on this article. Guess they need the money.
If you want the truth about the bear hunts and the FWC, join a Facebook group devoted to them.
People owe it to our wildlife to be educated and fight for their lives.
Rick Scott – Governor of the State of Florida
Nick Wiley – Executive Director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation
Commissioners on the FWC Board:
Aliese Priddy, Ron Bergeron, Robert Spottswood, Brian Yblonski, Adrien
Bo Rivard, Charles W. Roberts III, Richard Hanas
Diane Eggeman – Division Director of Wildlife Management with FWC
Thomas Eason – Habitat & Species Conservation Divison Director, Bear Expert and Biologist with FWC
All accountable for the murder of over 300 Florida black bears in the
2015 slaughter of, old bears, mother bears, underweight bears, cubs,
baited bears, sitting duck bears, bears deep in the wilderness, bears
on private land, public land and state land. Not bears that were visiting neighborhoods and making FWC uncomfortable by people calling them when they spotted them. A practice FWC even told people to do. They well publicized
for people to call when they saw a bear. These bears weren’t even
doing anything. They just weren’t in hiding. And for our Florida bears
that is a death sentence.
What happened to learning to live with wildlife? It’s amazing that so many
other states that have wildlife, have learned to live with them. But no, not
Florida. We won’t even tolerate seeing them. How ludicrious.
And why is that? You may think it’s because there were a few attacks
that happened close together one year and that must be the reason we
cannot allow bears to be in the same air space as humans. But that’s not
the reason. So, is it they get into garbage and make a mess when humans
won’t secure their garbage? No, that’s not the reason either. Well what
about there being too many bears? FWC brought this up after the other
two reasons weren’t strong enough to warrant a hunt. There’s just too
many bears. So what? There are too many humans too but we don’t go
out and shoot hundreds or thousands so their won’t be so many. They
say they can’t sustain themselves. Not enough food, not enough land
for that many bears. They don’t even know how many bears there are
but this must be the reason.
After a two day hunt with almost three times as many bears being killed
in one bear management unit in the panhandle, FWC says, that’s because
there are too many bears. Was there any research in as to why there were
that many killed in that area? And by the way, that was a carnage and lasted
hours longer than it should have but FWC did not have control to call it
off any earlier. So, no there hasn’t been any research as to why. The easy
and convienent answer is “ther are too many bears.”
I can’t tell you when I’ve ever seen a black bear in Florida. I spent a lot of
time on the Wekiva River in the 60’s and 70’s and never saw one. This area
is a hotbed for bear sightings now. I would be thrilled to see them.
After the FWC successfully brought the bears back from near extinction
by closing hunting on them and by the US Fish & Wildlife putting them on
the threatened list, black bears have come back. But back to what? Can you
say there are too many because you built homes smack dab in the middle
of their homelands? All of those homes built in the 80’s up around the Wekiva
area in Seminole county are in their territory. Expect to see bears!
Has FWC or anyone before the attacks of 2014 done anything to educate people
in those areas about securing their garbage and the other things that need to
be done to not attract them. Have they been taught what to do when they see
one besides call FWC? Do you know what FWC has done when you called and they came out to trap the bear(s)? You probably think they relocated them. NO.
They did not. They took them where nobody could see what they were doing
and they killed them. “One and Done” has been their philosophy. The bear didn’t
even have to tear anything up!
We lose hundreds of bears every year to road kills, poaching, starvation,
interbreed canabalism, disease, and FWC killing them. With
that many bears dying every year, why on earth would you have a hunt to
kill more of them? There is that question again.
The answer? Because it makes money. The almighty dollar. And it pleases
the commission board members who are hunters, the governor who is a hunter,
the National Rifle Association who many are hunters and lobbyists, the hunters in the state, the Safari Club International, the Boone and Crocket club, and on and on and on. Hundreds or thousands of groups of individuals who love to kill.
This is sport to them. This is fun. In a recent meeting, Lee Day a bear hunting opponent who monitored one of the bear check-in stations, played an audio recording of a bear being shot by an arrow. The groaning was beyond what my
my mind and heart could take. But the FWC commissioners who listened, were not
moved. Their eyes were dark and hollow, lifeless. Like this is something they
were use to hearing.
Maybe Liesa Priddy is use to her cattle being killed or some other livestock or
maybe she’s heard it many times when she has gone out and killed animals in a sport
called hunting. Whatever the reasons, it was clear that this commission could not
What moves people to be pro-killing of such beautiful, sentient beings? The only
thing more powerful than the blood lust is greed. The FWC board of commissioners is made up of very wealthy people. Their decisions are made by those two things.
Can this ever be changed? This is the 21st century. We no longer must hunt
to eat. Most all of us live in areas where there is no wildlife disrupting our
comfortable ways of life. It is said that management of wildlife is not necessary.
Nature will take care of their numbers.
So we are given the Kool-Aid to drink in order to justify the hunt. And many
uneducated people do. Only with education of these things will there ever be
change. It is the moral responsiblily of all of us who know better to teach those
May we live in harmony with our wildlife, educating others and being active to
help those who cannot help themselves.
Should our natural resources be sold off to the highest bidder?
Should they be used for profit while the wildlife that depends on
them for food be depleted of enough sustenance to survive?
That’s exactly what is happening in Florida with the saw palmetto berries.
These berries that have been said to help prostate health and some other ailments
have become quite a big business for pharmaceuticals, the companies that sell to them and the people who pick the berries. Eighty percent
of saw palmetto berries come from Florida.
The saw palmetto berries become ripe in August through September. A time when many migrant workers are out of work because there are no crops to pick. So they have turned to the saw palmetto berries.
The saw palmetto berries come at a cost to the pickers. They even risk their lives as rattle snakes make their homes in the palmetto bushes. There are biting insects and jagged leaves on the bushes that cut their hands and arms. They must wear protective gloves and long sleeves and pick in the Florida heat. But it’s all worth it to them.
They can make over a thousand dollars in just a few days.
Most pickers go out together and pick. Perhaps they are families. They load up in a truck with their bags and machetes and find a spot to pull off of the road to pick for the day. Usually the driver leaves and comes back and picks them up because leaving a truck on the side of the road would be a risk to be found out that they are picking illegally. They pick on private lands without permission. They pick on state land where it is now illegal
since a one year moratorium was placed on the picking of them on state land by agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam who was pressured to do something after public outcry.
These groups of pickers have proven to be a problem to law enforcement who when they come upon them do not have enough man power or vehicles to arrest them. So they make them dump the berries
and send them on their way. One person who doesn’t like the berry pickers said that the private land owners should call the cops to arrest them and stay there to retrieve the berries and go sell them themselves. Not exactly what needs to happen
In 2005 the berries were selling for thirty-five cents a pound but
now are up to as much as three dollars a pound. According to the Hearld
Tribune in Sarasota which ran an article in 2005 about the berries, they had been quietly being sold for more than twenty years. Here we are ten years later and little has been done.
Black bears forage on these berries at a critical time of the year when they are trying to pack on pounds as they prepare to enter into the denning season when they can lose 25% of their weight. And for females, it’s a matter of life or death to their unborn cubs who require this nourishment
to become viable.
As per the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) –
“The relation between the Florida black bear
(Ursus americanus floridanus) and saw palmetto (Serenoa
repens) epitomizes the complexities and challenges in
developing habitat management guidelines for the
Southeast’s largest land mammal. Both species were
once widespread throughout Florida, but now exhibit
patchy distributions throughout the state. Both species
provide keystone processes for the ecosystems in which
they reside: the black bear as a seed disperser (Maehr
1984a, 1997a) and saw palmetto as preferred food and
cover for hundreds of animal species (Maehr and Layne
You can see this is a critical plant for bears as well as other wildlife but for many years these berries have been allowed to be picked for a $10 a day permit on state land by the Florida Forest Service. Surely, the FWC knew about this. They are suppose to work together. And yet
it never stopped it. Besides the harvesting there has been burning off of palmettos in controlled burns of scrub land. These burns cause the palmettos not to be able to produce berries because of burning them back to the ground as well as have other negative effects.
In a report by, by Linda Conway Duever Conway Conservation, LLC regarding the Ecology of Saw Palmetto Management, the FWC says the following: “We have been, in effect, managing saw palmetto landscape ecology backwards. We should use longer fire intervals for substantial habitat patches deep in natural area interiors and shorter intervals in more buffer zone areas. This would help protect fruit resources from poachers and keep berry-seeking bears and frond-accumulation fire
hazards away from people, hence reducing the huge costs of nuisance bear incidents, traffic accidents, and urban interface wildfires. Managing mesic South Florida flatwoods for a more natural and diverse landscape mosaic by burning more palmetto in patches closer to the <10 acres/burn area typical of lightning fires in that region is also important, as is remembering that bears and/or panthers may be harmed if fires enter the old palmetto stands they use as denning cover. Since Serenoa repens is predicted to be extraordinarily persistent in the face of climate change, improving management of this species to increase its wildlife value can be
viewed as an especially good longterm investment.”
We have noticed an increase of bears visiting neighborhoods to forage through garbage and whatever else they can find. It has been shown in other states when there are low mast years, bears will venture out into neighborhoods, even breaking into homes in order to find enough to eat. Those low mast years where created by nature in those states. But in Florida, it is man who has created the problem.
Clearly, this problem needs to have more attention. A permanent ban on harvesting of the berries on state land and possibly to include private land. Protections need to be in place to keep these plants safe from humans for the sake of all wildlife. Along with these protections, heftier
fines need to be implemented because as it is, it’s worth it to the harvesters to risk the smallfines in leiu of the rewards they get when they sell them.
The group, Speak Up Wekiva along with senator Darren Soto (D-Fl), has introduced a bill called The Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act. This needs to be supported by everyone as it will help to make these important plants safer.
Together we can all help by reporting harvesters when we see them and protecting the saw palmettos
wherever they are.
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.
Here’s one letter to Senator Nelson that was sent and was only replied with a generic comment that said nothing.
October 28, 2015
The slaughter of Florida’s Black Bears that transpired last Saturday and Sunday (Oct 24-25, 2015) can best be described as an unmitigated disaster. I have heard not one word from you about any position on this Black Bear Hunt. Frankly, I am no longer surprised by your lack of concern for what many Floridians hold dear to our hearts, namely protecting our native wildlife. I have written to you many times regarding many issues important to Floridians. I get a form letter thanking me for writing without any position taken by you. You have sold out the people of Florida. I suspect you plan to retire when your Senate term is up and are no longer concerned with what voters think or care about. I hope you are retiring since you are doing absolutely nothing to protect Florida.
Just in case you still have some conscience about defending Florida’s wildlife, here are some things for you to think about and perhaps do something about.
Are you aware that the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) officially accepted public comments regarding the proposed bear hunt prior to their decision? 75% of 40,000 public comments received by FWC opposed the bear hunt. By all accounts and by a wide margin Floridian’s appear to wholeheartedly embrace the concept of compassionate conservation and are opposed to killing our black bears. Floridian’s have voted in favor of allocating money to preserve our native wildlife. We have a corrupt non-Floridian governor that cares naught about this state. It would take an entire book to lay out his egregious record.
Regarding our Black Bears, and without knowing the precise number of bears in Florida (the official study underway will not be completed until 2016) the FWC guesstimated there to be about 3,000 bears statewide. No one knows for certain. It is important to note that the Florida Black Bear was listed as endangered as recently as 2012. Many responsible conservationists strongly urged waiting until the study was completed, as did many responsible hunters who said they would not participate in this ill-advised hunt. The president of Florida’s primary hunting organization publicly refused to participate.
FWC stated they issued a total of 3,778 bear hunting permits, some to non-Florida residents. Does that strike you as a grossly high and irresponsible number considering 320 bears was the targeted maximum limit set? Hunters reportedly began taking aim throughout the state just before sunrise on Saturday, October 24. Within five minutes of the start of the bear hunt, one hunter had already shot a bear.
What we also know are the following reported breakdown numbers released by FWC staff (207 bears were killed in the Panhandle and Central Florida on Saturday, Oct 24 alone). Does that tell you something quite critical about the nature of this hunt? Many documented accounts from hunters was how easy it was to kill a bear, since bears had no fear of humans having been protected for 21 years. Many hunters joked about how naive the bears were. Does that give you a glimpse of the horrific picture millions of caring Floridians have? This was a slaughter in no uncertain terms; some media labeled it a genocide and rightly so. A laser beam is directed at Florida from all over the country and from around the world. Prior to the hunt, The New York Times wrote an opposing op-ed, as did the Huffington Post. Once again, Florida has ample reason to be ashamed of very bad policy and disastrous incompetence. Our precious black bears were in the cross hairs this time.
295 bears killed statewide as of Sunday Oct 25 (FWC numbers)
Bears Killed by REGION (FWC numbers)
East Panhandle – 112 (40 was the maximum allotted number set by FWC)
Central – 139 (100 was the maximum allotted number set by FWC)
North – 23
South – 21
All experts know that the actual number of bears killed was much higher than the officially released FWC numbers. A significant number of private lands across the state were open to hunters. We will likely never know the total number of bears killed. The entire population may have suffered irreversible damage. Reports from FWC officers and witnesses at the weigh stations stated that at least 1/3 of the dead bears were lactating females. Again, how does that strike you? Knowing that as many as 300 bear cubs (maybe more) are now orphaned and traumatized? Without their mother, most will die from lack of food and water or be killed by a coyote. Many of the killed females were pregnant.
Documented killing of bear cubs was reported at several weigh stations, cubs weighing far less than the required minimum of 100 lbs. As an example, one reported cub weighed 73 lbs., another weighed only 40 lbs., and there were more. One documented account was of a hunter stating he had to tear cubs away from their mother that he had shot. Are you getting some of the picture of this grossly mismanaged, immoral killing spree, wrought with criminal conduct? This was a failure and tragedy of astronomical proportions.
Millions of Floridians are in shock and mourning the loss of so many of our precious black bears, this amazing, unique subspecies of black bear found nowhere else. The reason they are dead? Primarily so trophy hunters, poorly named sportsmen could get their kicks.
Now, I ask you, Bill Nelson, a native Floridian, what are you going to do about this? You were elected by voters in Florida to represent the will of the people who have been paying your salary for decades. Six of the 7 FWC commissioners appointed by Gov. Rick Scott voted for this bear hunt and their agency’s upper level management including Director, Nick Wiley, are responsible for it. In my opinion, those 6 commissioners should be fired or at the very least relieved of their duties until an independent investigation into violations and possible criminal acts relating to this bear hunt is completed. Since this occurred on Gov. Scott’s watch and under the supervision of his FWC appointees, he should resign.
I request a written reply to this important issue from you. I do not want the usual form letter from your aide thanking me for my opinion and please do not ignore me again.
Palm Bay, Florida
I have been in Florida for just over three years, and what has brought me the most joy is the true beauty of the real Florida and the diverse wildlife, right here where I live, so close to the exact opposite, Disney World. I find it so hard to believe that when I came here bears were on the endangered list and now in just two days, they have hunted hundreds and hundreds of these beautiful creatures, way more than they are letting on with their official numbers since they don’t count the wounded that will die, the cubs that are orphaned and will probably die, those that were never turned in from private lands and hunters who were dishonest with their kills.
They didn’t even wait for the census to finish next year before deciding to exterminate so many , and by selling more permits than estimated bears in Florida basically set up a Black Friday type event with thousands of hunters out at one time, all intent on getting that bear.
Many true hunters were against this hunt, knowing it would be a massacre because these animals are not accustomed to being hurt by humans and are an easy target. In this case, science did not back up the hunt, but they refused to listen.
Many hunters had no such morals and reveled in the fact that they were so easy to kill. They killed many mothers that were lactating , cubs and very small bears. They baited the bears as well, preparing beforehand with cameras on their trees and bait. From tree stands they could easily kill a bear which had been accustomed to coming every day for the food they set out to bait them .They brought their children along to witness the carnage , there are many pictures of children posing with dead bears.
Nothing was ethical about this hunt, in the Eastern Panhandle area, they killed more than 3 times the quota they had laid out. Where we live, they surpassed their quota in one day and many hunters were so angry that they didn’t get to hunt for the two days since they had paid a measly $100 for the life of a bear. And mind you, the FWC said that they didn’t think that they would reach their quota in even a week of hunting since bears would be hard to find in the thick underbrush. They were warned, that like Georgia which killed off ten percent of the bear population in one day that this would not be the case and it would be easy in this terrain which is similar to Georgia’s. Instead they are spinning it to look like the fact so many bears were killed in a short space of time was because the bear population is thriving , trying to justify what they did, when in reality they set up an easy massacre selling twenty times more permits than the quota of bears. Now they state the funds will be used for bear management, a total farce as they could have so easily done the bear proof trash cans before resorting to this obvious trophy hunt.
As this short intelligent article by Rod Coronado, a brilliant man who has done much for the wolves and other wildlife of Wisconsin, and who came to observe this hunt,and who I was lucky enough to hear talk in person points out, this type of so called management doesn’t even work and can actually backfire.
People think that the bears had to be culled because they were proving to be a nuisance in neighborhoods but don’t realize that most of the killed bears were deep in the woods in public lands or private lands and few of the actual ‘nuisance’ bears would have been killed, and now there will be a lot of starving cubs which could provide even more of a nuisance.
The very next day after the hunt there was a picture of a bear eating someone’s trash in a neighborhood, which only serves to prove this point.
This problem could so easily have been solved with trash management, but the Florida Governor and FWC decided not to go that route.
I have learned a lot about darkness and evil in Florida over the last few days and now realize how much deeper this thing goes, with corruption at the highest levels of governance, land development deals,and hunters running the FWC.
Coming from Trinidad, I am not ignorant to how much corruption goes on at very level including hunting, our own national bird, the Scarlet Ibis was badly hunted, with government ministers buying the meat illegally. The national bird of Barbados is the pelican, ask anyone when’s the last time you saw a pelican there.
Surprisingly too, though they plan to hunt the endangered Florida panther next, I find that I have seen an outpouring of horror about this hunt from people in the Caribbean, England ,Australia and Canada, but not a whole lot of voices from Florida, which is sad since it is their beautiful land and animals being destroyed.
Perhaps Florida will eventually turn into one big concrete jungle, every place looking identical as the next, very sad and will happen if people do not find out how to go about supporting the changing of laws to protect their land and wildlife.
I know it’s a long battle, but I will continue to be a voice for the beautiful black bears.