Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: No more Florida bear hunts

Almost two years after Florida allowed its first bear hunt in a generation, the controversial topic is back on the agenda of wildlife managers. This time, thankfully, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff is not recommending holding another bear hunt, and commissioners should follow that lead when they consider the issue Wednesday. After the 2015 hunt resulted in the senseless killing of more than 300 Florida black bears despite enormous public opposition and questionable science, there is no more reason now than there was then to allow open season on these animals.

As recently as 2012, bears were listed as an imperiled species in Florida. But as attacks and other unwelcome contact with humans steadily rose, the focus of the threat shifted. When a hunt was proposed in 2015, officials suggested it as a way to cut down on car crashes and nuisance bears bothering homeowners and damaging property. That never made sense, since the hunt was to take place deep in the woods, not on the edges of new suburbs that are pushing ever closer to bear habitat.

Public officials across the state passed resolutions opposing a hunt and scientists warned of threats to the bear population, whose actual numbers were not known. Hundreds of residents turned out at Fish and Wildlife hearings imploring the state to halt the plan. None of it mattered. The commission charged ahead and approved a weeklong hunt for October 2015. Depending on your point of view, the hunt was either a travesty or a huge success. So many bears were killed so quickly that officials shut it down after just two days. Among the take were 36 lactating females, meaning scores of cubs were left orphaned. The whole spectacle was a disgrace from which the state got a welcome reprieve in 2016 when the commission voted unexpectedly not to hold another hunt.

Also last year, a state count brought encouraging news: In 14 years, the adult Florida black bear population grew by 60 percent to 4,350, in addition to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 cubs wandering the woods, state bear experts said. That was the result of a focused effort to help add to the bears' numbers. About 40 years ago, Florida had about 300 bears left. The state banned hunting in all but three counties in 1974, then banned it statewide in 1994. By 2002, state biologists estimated the population at about 3,000. The hunting ban and other efforts at protection worked.

The Florida black bear's comeback is a wildlife management victory that should be celebrated, not perverted by another unjustified hunt.

Meanwhile, as the bear count has grown, so have the threats. More people are moving to Florida all the time, spurring more development that continues to encroach on bear habitat. Shortsighted decisions now could send the bear population right back to perilous levels. Concerns about the animals' contact with people should be addressed in other ways, namely through habitat protection but also sensible precautions like bear-proof lids on garbage cans. Those and other solutions should be the focus this week when the state wildlife commission meets in Tallahassee.

Comments

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasn’t enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, it’s looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the city’s dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17