Let’s have a moment of silence for the 295 bears that were killed in less than 48 hours this past weekend.
Each bear was taken by surprise, a victim in an unfair fight. We want to tell ourselves that we were relieved of these nuisance bears, that a threat to the fragile human species has been curbed for now.
But I think that we, humans, are the real threat. The answer is not bullets or arrows in the name of “conservation”, the answer is coexistence. But in true human form, the powers that be decided on what they would probably call a “quick fix” to the increased sightings of bears in neighborhoods. This bear hunt is setting an unsettling precedent that we will resort to extermination and further destruction instead of developing and building with the long term in mind for all species involved.
Let’s talk about these living, breathing, thinking, feeling beings for a moment. This species, who have only been off the endangered species list for three years. A species whose population was reduced down to only 300 in the 1970s. These bears, who have gotten used to pavement on their paws and the sounds of cars honking as suburbia crawls onto the forest’s edge, building model homes on top of model homes that the average American can’t even afford.
Now let’s get to this past weekend’s tragic events. 295 naive and unsuspecting bears were murdered; easy targets for a species that hasn’t been hunted in 21 years. Among the dead were two cubs– one that was 88 pounds and one that was 42 pounds. To put that in perspective, I have a puggle (pug and beagle mix) that weighs 45 pounds. Where is there honor, or even a challenge in killing a baby animal? That is disturbing to me that you would see a cub in your crosshairs and think, I need to kill that baby animal. Also among the dead, were lactating mothers, so it can be assumed that the body count will be much higher than the actual 295, as hungry cubs wander the forest, lost and confused. In addition, no one can be sure that each bear killed was reported, and there is no telling how many injured bears there may be.
Before the cull, black bear populations in Florida were estimated to be between 3,000 and 3,500, with most of the bears residing in the Ocala National Forest. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), bears currently occupy only 30 percent of their historic range in seven relatively isolated bear subpopulations. To me, that doesn’t sound like the bears are the ones creating the issue here. Like all animals, bears will adapt to survive, even if that means going into a neighborhood to hunt for garbage. Sorry, but I am pretty sure bears do not honor property lines.
From personal experience, I can tell you that what they are after is garbage. Bears aren’t coming into our neighborhoods to eat your children or your dog for dinner. More than likely, they might know that you have a nice fruit tree, or maybe you’re the guy who puts his garbage out the night before trash day.
I lived in a well-developed and established suburb of Orlando for many years that butts up to a state park. We would often get black bears wandering around the neighborhood. Yes, these are dangerous animals that have the capacity to attack, but my first-hand observations were that they were on their own mission for food and were not looking for any trouble. If you lived and let live, then everyone would live.
So I think that we need to stop with the fear-mongering against any animal larger than ourselves. They have the brawn, we are supposed to be the evolved ones with our brains as our greatest defense, and I think that is the first weapon we should whip out. Let’s choose to use our brains before our bullets.
And to the hunters that destroyed each bear, I hope you use every last piece of that bear you can for something useful. I hope that each bear did not die in vain, just to buttress your own self worth and maybe get a few Instagram likes on your latest trophy. Honor the bear and its spirit. Honor the life that you took.
This hunt in my mind is a black mark on Florida, and on the state of conservation in general. Why in 2015 do we seem to be moving backwards? Killing an already fragile population is shameful. There have to be other solutions.
Hopefully some good can come from this savageness. Hopefully we can reexamine some of the ways we plan our cities and suburbs, especially those that border preserves and state parks.
This past weekend was a tragedy.
We know better than this. It’s time to start acting like it.