Yesterday the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) voted to NOT have a Florida Black Bear hunt in 2016. They will continue to do further population and habitat studies in the next year and will discuss having a 2017 hunt next year. This was unexpected joy!
I attended the FWC Commissioners meeting which was held in Eastpoint. This area in the panhandle bordering the Apalachicola National Forest and the Gulf of Mexico is so beautiful. My family and I visited the area last fall and spent more time there but this time we basically just went for the FWC meeting.
As we arrived in Eastpoint, my mom, dad, and I stopped our car and got to admire these two bald eagles. One, who I think was a male (because male bald eagles are smaller than females) swooped down to the water’s edge and caught a fish. Two vultures landed nearby him and watched him eat but when the eagle flew away a little while later, the vultures looked over the spot where the eagle was and flew right away. That eagle must have left no leftovers whatsoever for the vultures! These magnificent birds were a spectacular sight!
At the FWC meeting on June 22, 2016, the Commission first discussed and heard their staff present options on designating multiple new Critical Wildlife Areas (CWAs) throughout Florida. This was such wonderful news. The biggest issue all of the wildlife in our state face is loss of habitat. In proposing to designate many new CWAs, mostly to protect fairly small nesting areas for various birds, the FWC is taking a great step in the right direction to protect sensitive areas. In the past I have spoken to the FWC Commission several times but getting up to thank them for undertaking this wonderful project was by far the happiest subject I have spoken to them about.
After a long presentation about bear management and many hours of public comments both for and against bear hunting in Florida, the Commissioners finally got to their crucial discussion of their vote decisions. It was an absolute nail biter!! Every nerve-wracking moment was worth it when the final vote was 4-3 to postpone a 2016 bear hunt!
I was speechless for a couple seconds and then I started cheering with joy!! I fully understand that the FWC Commissioners will take up the issue in 2017 to consider authorizing a hunt next year but for now WAAAHHHOOOOOOOO!!! Hundreds of people across the state have helped to make this unexpected victory happen! A huge thank you to Commissioners Bergeron, Rivard, Spottswood, and Yablonski for making a very tough decision. I listened to everything that all of the Commissioners said as they were about to vote on their decision and I appreciate how careful and thoughtful they all are.