The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to build on its long-standing, proactive approach to bear management. At its April 15 meeting in Tallahassee, FWC Commissioners approved several proposed bear-related rules that will be presented for final action in June. The draft rules address a wide variety of tools to manage bear populations and help reduce human-bear conflicts.
Staff were directed to refine changes to the feeding rule by making a new sub-section specifically for bear feeding and adding coyotes to rule 68A-4.001(3). In responding to feeding violations, staff will focus on written warnings as a key component.
Commissioners also approved draft language to the bear conservation rule which includes the depredation permit that can be used in appropriate situations. Depredation permits would authorize a landowner to remove bears if they are causing property damage, if protective measures like electric fencing have failed or are not feasible, and if FWC staff have been unable to trap the bear within four nights.
Additionally, the Commission approved draft rules that would allow for the scaring of bears in appropriate settings.
The Commissioners asked staff to continue the educational approach to help people understand how to live with bears in ways that minimize conflicts.
“Education is key. We know that bear feeding is an issue, so we need to continue to be proactive and responsive with our efforts,” said FWC Chairman Richard Corbett. “Properly securing garbage and other attractants is the single most important action for reducing conflict situations with bears.”
As directed by Commissioners in February, staff is also in the process of drafting a policy paper on the need for comprehensive waste management to reduce human-bear conflicts. The report and an accompanying resolution should be ready for Commission review at its June 2015 meeting.
Finally, the commission also approved proposed rules which, if passed at the next commission meeting in June, would allow limited hunting of black bears in four of the state’s seven bear management units.
“Bear populations have grown over the last 15 to 20 years. It is our responsibility to manage these populations, and hunting is an important and effective tool to help us do so,” Corbett said.
The four proposed units contain the state’s largest bear populations, which include all three national forests and the southern-most portion of Florida. The proposal includes a seven-day season in late October on private and public lands. The season may end sooner in any given bear management unit if the harvest objective for that unit is reached. Hunting bears with bait or dogs would not be allowed, and everyone who wanted to participate would need a bear permit ($100 for a resident permit and $300 for a nonresident permit) as well as a hunting license and any other related permits.
For the presentation outlining these amendments, go to http://myfwc.com/media/3013519/11B-Revisions-Bear-Rules.pdf.
Before the final discussion during the June Commission meeting, people can provide comments regarding these and other bear-related topics at MyFWC.com/Bear. This link will also provide information about Florida black bears and how to avoid conflicts with them. Please report any threatening bear behavior to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).