Phil Walters: Sportsmen are part of the solution to Florida's bear problem

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.

Jennifer Hobgood's May 30 Speaking Out column about bears contained little fact but did spout lots of emotional opinion that are detrimental to sound wildlife management and conservation.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is an animal rights organization that prey's on the emotion of urban folks who wish to support wildlife and animals but are clueless to the organization's true “Animals have the Same Rights as People” policy. The organization's goal is to raise money to perpetuate animal rights by fighting, through the legal and political systems sustainable, conservation based hunting, farming, ranching and animal pet ownership.

Research has shown the black bear in Florida to be the same species of black bear found in stable and increasing numbers across the country. Unfortunately, through politics and financial might, in 1994 the HSUS rammed through questionable “science” that was not peer reviewed and pushed the bears of Florida into the “threatened” classification, thus ending all conservation based sustainable hunting or culling. This, in turn has resulted in a bear population that has far surpassed the carrying capacity (bear population) of habitat resulting in degradation of the environment and placing large carnivorous predators into close proximity to playgrounds, bus stops, schools, pets, children and people. Long term, nothing good will come from this unnatural management plan perpetrated by HSUS as it's unsustainable and ultimately dangerous.

Well documented are bear deprivations and destruction of wildlife feeders, dumpsters, garbage cans, food plots, house pets (your pet), farm animals and, in other states, an occasional person is added to the smorgasbord. HSUS' answer to these very real issues that rural and increasing suburban folks must live with is to spend scarce resources to move a problem animal to either another overpopulated habitat or yet another location in close proximity to people. The result is money wasted on bears that are either hit on the highways while attempting to return to the problem area (a potentially deadly conflict with your vehicle), attacked and killed by another bear or eventually euthanized. Either way, it's a waste of resources and a waste of the animal.

During public input opportunities on future bear management plans, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) received an overwhelming response from the public: Add sustainable, conservation based public harvest to the plan! This is because many sportsmen, fishermen, hunters, landowners, farmers, ranchers and the folks who must live with 500-600 lb carnivores nearby fully understand that reasonable management tools must be based on fact and sustainability, not emotion, politics and a huge supply of money pushing an idealistic agenda.

The public fair chase hunting of today has little resemblance to the market hunting conducted generations ago, when commercial hunting provided mountains of cheap food to the masses of people in the cities while the rural agrarian folks worked hard to protect their livestock, crops and families from destructive pests and predators.

All true hunters are conservationists and have a very long and distinguished record of protecting our natural resources for future generations through reasonable and sustainable public access management plans. Hunting is a key component of this legacy. Let's be reasonable about sustainable use hunting when it's employed in wildlife management, and let's leave the decision making to those who are either stakeholders involved in the issues or the professional, science-based wildlife managers who support hunting as a viable management tool.

Captain Phil Walters,


Safari Club International: Life Member

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