Masters of the Hunt: Florida’s Black Bear and the Conquest of Nature

[Updates appear at end of post.]

On October 10th, 2015, the small Central Florida town of Umatilla, on the southern edge of the Ocala National Forest, is scheduled to hold its annual Black Bear Festival. The event, organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has traditionally been aimed at educating young and old alike about the area’s wildlife, featuring presentations and guided eco-tours of the nearby forest. For a town that used to label itself “The Gateway to the Forest,” the event was a wholesome family activity and entirely fitting. This year’s event promises to be extra-special, for it will mark the two-week countdown to the resumption of bear hunting after a twenty-one-year hiatus, affording Florida’s families a wonderful new way to interact with their natural environment. It remains to be seen whether the organizers will set up bear-shaped targets for youngsters to aim at in Cadwell Park, or will hide the reality of the coming bloodbath behind their fraudulent and authoritarian claim of managerial responsibility.

Proud Bear Hunters

Real men establishing their masculinity for posterity – a sight coming soon to Florida’s forests.

Naturally, local sadists are positively salivating at the prospect, relishing the “new challenge” of re-affirming their position at the top of the food chain without having to book a flight to Zimbabwe, or acknowledging the hollowness of bravery subsidized by an overwhelming advantage in weaponry. The Orlando Sentinel reported on August 9th that 1,430 bear-hunting permits had already been purchased since sales began on August 3rd. The FWC has placed no ceiling on the number of permits it will issue, foreclosing the potential for a deep-pocketed defender of the bears to buy a large quantity of outstanding permits and prevent them from being used by hunters. Sales will continue until the eve of the hunt, and the hunt itself will last for 2-7 days, depending upon when the “harvest objective” has been met. (Link to pdf of official rules available here.) The cost of a bear’s life, according to the humans who will go on living when the last arrow has been released from its bow, is $100 (or $300 for out-of-state hunters). The National Rifle Association (NRA), eager to democratize the hunt and maximize the number of people who will experience the soul-enhancing epiphany of firing a lethal projectile at a large, sentient creature, has urged the state to reduce the fee to only $50. (New Jersey sells 10,000 bear-hunting permits to existing firearms-license holders for the princely sum of a $2 lottery ticket, truly a triumph for popular participation in the affairs of state.) But, in keeping with the nation’s revised, 1787-edition of its founding principles, democracy is a privilege to be extended only to those who will not abuse it by forgetting their proper place.

Real Men Don’t Play with Teddy Bears

As the administrative process ground down toward its predictable conclusion, the FWC went through the motions of inviting public comments on its proposed bear-management plans. Fully 75% of those comments opposed the idea of a hunt. A state-wide poll commissioned by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) earlier this year showed that 61% of Floridians were against bear hunting, with overwhelming majorities favoring educational outreach programs and the widespread use of bear-proof garbage cans. When the HSUS delivered a petition to Governor Rick Scott with 90,000 names calling upon him to block the hunt, Scott deferred to the Republican-packed FWC, whose chairman, Richard Corbett, dismissed the concerns of these Florida citizens in the following way:

Those people don’t know what they’re talking about. Most of those people have never been in the woods. They think we’re talking about teddy bears. “Oh Lord, don’t hurt my little teddy bear!’ Well these bears are dangerous…. Do you want blood on your hands? We don’t. We have taken a step.”

Florida black bear cub napping in tree

Image selected especially for Mr. Richard Corbett.

Perhaps we should stop wallowing in sentimentality for a moment and be grateful that impartial guardians of the public interest like Richard Corbett have been insulated from public pressure by the appointment process. (We will showcase their impartiality in due course, one by one, to give them all the respect they deserve.) Why, if the FWC commissioners had to run for election, they might allow their judgment to be swayed by the tyranny of the bear-huggers, a prospect that would send chills down the spine of any constitutional engineer worth his salt. Proper decision making
entails sound scientific reasoning, a process best left to the experts and to philosopher-statesmen, n’est-ce pas? Mr. Corbett’s irritation is quite understandable, for a gentleman of such distinction should not have to tolerate such lèse-majesté. The staff on his 16,000-acre private plantation would never openly doubt his decisions, so why should anyone else?

We can begin to answer that question by noting that Mr. Corbett’s framing of the public-safety issue more closely resembles the defensive aspersions of many hunters (see, for example, the comments in this Field & Stream article) than a sober assessment of the facts on the ground, be that in the woods or in the suburbs that now sit where the woods used to be. The simple fact is that black bear attacks on humans are extremely rare (14 injuries since Florida started tracking in 1976), and when they do occur they are almost always the result of intentional feeding or harassment. The 2014 case of a Lake Mary woman who was mauled while walking her dog received a great deal of media attention, and had much to do with stoking the flames that will shortly roast the bears alive. The press did not devote as much attention to the subsequent revelation that the woman’s neighbor had been feeding bears and was prosecuted for doing so. As far as fatalities are concerned, there have only been two fatal attacks in the Southeast, both of which were in Tennessee. Even including Canada, humans are more likely to be killed by dogs and much more likely to be killed by lightning. Mr. Corbett’s exaggeration of the threat posed by black bears has been compounded by the hunt’s targeting of bears deep within Florida’s Bear Management Units (BMUs). Bears who have never been near a precious human’s garbage are to be summarily executed on the shaky grounds that population pressure within the BMU is driving excess bears out into the suburbs. The fact that a veritable infestation of humans has been scything into the woods, a matter to which we shall return, is not allowed to enter into this deadly calculus.

The weakness of the state’s public-safety argument has prompted a legal attack from organized opponents of the hunt. A lawsuit filed in late July by Lake Mary-based Speak Up Wekiva and ChuckSpeak Up Wekiva O’Neal of the League of Women Voters alleges that the hunt is inconsistent with the Florida state constitution, which ordained the FWC with a mission to use sound science to preserve and protect wildlife. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the lawsuit argues that there is “no evidence to support the supposition that hunting bears in remote wildlife management areas will reduce conflicts in suburbia.” It also questions whether the state’s bear population can sustain a hunt as their habitat is eroded. O’ Neal argues that the FWC is packed with political appointees “and their agenda unfortunately is not preserving state wildlife. Their agenda is expanding hunting opportunities in the state of Florida.” (As we shall see, O’Neal is only scratching the surface.) The HSUS has argued, convincingly in our opinion (and we have been in the woods, Mr. Corbett), that the killing of bears in the middle of the state’s largest forests is not going to modify the behavior of nuisance bears in suburbia who have become addicted to human-supplied ready meals. As Anthony Rogers-Wright of New York-based Environmental Action put it, “bears don’t use social media accounts to send each other messages like #blackbearsmatter.” In response to such criticism, other FWC officials seem to have backtracked from the argument that the hunt is intended to protect public safety. Nick Wiley, the FWC’s Executive Director, contended after the final decision was taken that the hunt is simply another tool to “manage” the bear population. But that argument exposes the FWC to yet another charge that it doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

Habitat for Inhumanity

Quite apart from issues of appropriateness or morality, Florida’s bear hunt is an exercise in absurdity, for the FWC proposes to manage a population without even knowing how many bears we actually have. A full survey of the Florida black bear’s numbers will not be completed until next year. In the meantime, since guesstimates constitute a sufficient basis for policy-making, the FWC’s plan is based on figures from the 2002 survey, bolstered by constant assertions that the bear population has rebounded and constitutes a “success story.” It is quite clear that the FWC’s conception of success is one in which the carrying capacity of the bear’s existing habitat has been reached, but this is a grotesque conception indeed when that habitat is constantly shrinking as a result of human encroachment. From the bear’s point of view, the situation may be better than it was in 1974 (when their numbers had been reduced to about 300 and the state finally offered them some protection) but remains a tragedy. Statewide, the Florida black bear only has 18% of its original territory left, and even the FWC admits that a further 2.3 million acres of habitat will be lost by Lee County Sprawl2060. The invasive species responsible for all that habitat loss, homo sapiens, has been allowed to multiply without expressions of official concern that the state’s carrying capacity could be exceeded or that the human population might need to be “managed.” The FWC notes, on parts of its website that were written in less hostile times, that while there were only 5 million humans in Florida in 1960, there may be as many as 36 million by 2060 and this growth inevitably leads to bear-human conflicts. (The FWC does not mention that most of Florida will have run out of drinking water by 2030. It is an article of faith that there will always be enough resources: God and the market will provide.) On the verge of the 2015 bear hunt, then, a bear population estimated at 3,150 is considered to present an overpopulation problem, while a human population a hair under 20 million is to be accepted without question. The obvious victim of human activity is to be punished still more, unsafe even deep within the few remaining pockets of habitat we allow it to keep (for now).

And so it is that 320 Florida black bears – 10% of the estimated population – have been sentenced to die this October. The state expects a similar number to be killed by vehicles and other causes this year (never having bothered to invest in more tunnels under the roads that traverse bear country after building one very successful underpass on SR 46 way back in 1994), leading to a 20% total drop in the bear’s numbers. The result will be a “biologically sustainable population,” the professional term for a Holocaust. If the cull’s target is reached in two days, the hunt will supposedly be stopped; if not, it will run for a full week. Either way, the human population will grow by several thousand, sustainability be damned, while the bears are being killed. Given the number of permits being issued, and the “pent-up demand” for this kind of recreational activity, it is possible that the target will be exceeded before it can be stopped, though the state predicts hunters will have a low success rate. Dedicated as it is to numerical accuracy, the state has placed its faith in hunters complying with the request to report their kills within twelve hours of “the take.”  There has been no mention of how many FWC officers will be on duty to police the army of assassins that will surge through the woods that week. Excited rednecks, presumably, are better at self-policing than Wall Street bankers or the CEO’s of large hospital companies like, say, Columbia/HCA.

Young Bear Hunter

That’s the spirit – get them started early.

The state assumes further that hunters will not kill cubs under 100lbs and will not kill mothers with at least one cub in tow. If the hunter does not see the cubs, because the mother has left them under cover while she investigates strange noises and smells, or if the hunter saw the cubs but wanted a return on his $100 investment (plus gas!), well that’s just too bad. Cubs that starve to death will be welcome additions to the mortality column. And while hunting with bait and dogs has been prohibited, leashed dogs are allowed for the purpose of tracking a wounded animal. The blood should add a nice early dash of fall color to the woods, our seasons being a little different down here. Sadly, the state will not be able to keep a scientifically precise record of the number of bears who escape “bagging” and succumb to their wounds later; it would have been most useful to have had an Excel spreadsheet quantifying the degree of agony experienced and the coefficient of deterrence achieved. Nor will the bears be able to communicate to the FWC’s field staff just how delighted they are that they and their offspring have become successful enough to offer themselves as sacrifices on the altar of human progress, surely the supreme spiritual goal of any sentient creature.

A Breed Apart: Meet the Commissioners

As tempting as it may be to blame hunters for the bloodbath that is about to ensue, final responsibility for Florida’s bear hunt lies with the state’s political elite and its ideology. It is a noble tradition in the South for the ruling class to enlist the aid of poor whites, and have them vote against their own socioeconomic interests, by pressing some kind of emotional hot button. For many decades, the device of choice was racism. Today, the overlords’ task of coalition-building is a little more complicated, but there can be no doubt that the hunting and gun control issues are marvelous tools in the plutocrats’ bag of tricks. (See, for example, our previous examination of the politics of wolf hunting.) Environmental activists like Chuck O’Neal need to be under no illusions that the animating force behind state policy is as simple as a desire to kill defenseless animals. While the Republican commissioners on the FWC may very well enjoy spilling a little blood themselves, what they really value in life is green, not red. And they won’t be sharing too much of it with the hunters who unknowingly facilitate its accumulation.

The membership of the FWC tells an instructive story about the reality of power in Florida. The slant toward real-estate development and construction is obvious, with a sprinkling of landed gentry for good measure. (Americans who have been instructed not to think in class terms fail to appreciate the aristocratic miasma that any British opponent of fox hunting could smell from three-thousand miles away.) Chairman Corbett serves as a prime example. In addition to running the aforementioned plantation, which has been in his family for 80 years, Corbett is President and CEO of Concorde Companies, a real-estate investing firm based in Tampa. He has done well enough to give $35 million to Notre Dame University. That kind of money comes from crafty deal-making, like his massive shopping mall by Tampa’s airport. Corbett used insider connections to have the parcel ridiculously undervalued and then negotiated a favorable long-term lease with the local aviation authority that will end up costing Hillsborough County hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Very close to the Kennedy family in his youth, at some point Corbett made the same partisan move as most of the rest of the Southern elite and “served” on Mitt Romney’s national finance committee, hosting a high-dollar fundraiser in his country club home.

Florida Panther

The critically endangered Florida panther. Click on image for a beautiful, full-size view, and then ask yourself which creature needs to learn to co-exist.

Vice-Chair Aliese Priddy owns a 9,300-acre cattle ranch just a few miles from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. An avid hunter, Priddy is on record stating that she would like to see the panther recover just enough to be removed from the endangered species list, because that would mean a loosening of the regulations that prevent harassment of the big predator. She has since used her position on the FWC to attempt to advance that goal, recently drafting a proposal with Executive Director Wiley to seek permission from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to transfer panther management to the state, thereby enabling a shift in focus from population-building to “co-existence” with human activities. Combining the same talk of successful recovery and threats to public safety as in the bear debate, but even more outrageous ecologically, the campaign against the panther has nothing to do with conserving wildlife but everything to do with conserving the profits of ranchers and land developers. When Priddy speaks of “putting people first,” it is clear which people she has in mind.

Commissioner Brian Yablonski is external affairs director for Gulf Power and an adjunct fellow with the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, MT. According to the FWC’s website, PERC “is the nation’s oldest and largest institute working to use market principles to solve environmental problems.” We all know what that means, and Greenpeace verifies it, describing PERC as a Koch Industries climate denial front group. Full of Bush cronies, PERC has received significant donations from Exxon-Mobil. More on Yablonski in a moment.

Commissioner Richard Hanas is senior vice president of A. Duda & Sons, Inc., a real estate investment company. Starting with sod and vegetable growing, Duda diversified into planned developments, selling agricultural lands to builders when peak value has arrived. So, lots of potential residents driving up housing prices – good; fear of bear attacks in new subdivisions – bad. Check and check.

Commissioner Charles W. Roberts III is president of a construction company involved mostly in paving. The Tampa Bay Times reported that his companies have a history of environmental infractions, although Roberts failed to see how that was relevant to his appointment to the Wildlife Commission. As the owner of the Pinckney Hill quail hunting plantation, Roberts should get along swimmingly with Yablonski, who penned a nauseatingly sycophantic screed for PERC explicitly arguing that private plantations for the wealthy few constituted a superior preservation strategy to “government approaches” such as protected-species status and conservation land purchases. Isn’t it reassuring to know that such sentiments can find their proper expression in the public sector?

Florida Quail Plantation

The next generation of Florida’s ruling class at play on a private quail plantation (Honey Lake, Tallahassee). Simply smashing!

Commissioner Bo Rivard is a lawyer. As co-owner of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Panama City Beach, Rivard played a pivotal role in the infamous 2009 firing of Dr. Jason Newsom, the army medic who returned from Iraq to run the Bay County Health Department and launched a crusade against junk food. After the electronic sign outside the Health Department ran health warnings that included “Doughnuts Diabetes”, “Dunkin’ Donuts Death”, and “America Dies on Dunkin’,” Rivard and others threatened to sue, leading to Newsom’s ouster. In a county with a 25% obesity rate, Newsom’s effective education campaign was seen as hostile to business interests. Rivard obviously understands the all-American principle that profit is more important than people.

Commissioner Ron Bergeron owns a variety of businesses, including the largest road contracting and site-development company in the state and a real-estate development company. A colorful figure known for alligator wrestling, airboating, and driving a gold-plated Hummer, Bergeron was the only one to vote against the hunt, arguing that more time was needed for proper study. Bergeron also blocked Aliese Priddy’s plan for the panther, relying on his knowledge of the Everglades to point out that huge areas of potential habitat have been made inaccessible to the cats by the water levels caused by restoration efforts. Such eccentricity, it would seem, is to be tolerated as a token gesture toward diversity of opinion on the FWC.

These, then, are the masters of the hunt: owners and faithful servants, white, wealthy, unelected, and utterly devoted to the pursuit of profits. Eager to do some of the dirty work themselves, they set the example for the lower orders to follow. Consummate apex predators, they are the perfect representatives of mankind in its dealings with the natural world.

The Conquest of Nature

Officially regarded as endangered as recently as 2012, and still actually endangered now, no matter what the officials say about the “success” of its recovery, the Florida black bear – a genetically unique subspecies – has seen its life devalued to less than a monthly cable bill for the human households now occupying what used to be its territory. Like Palestinians on the West Bank of the Jordan, its ancestral lands have been dissected and demarcated by a powerful, self-righteous invader, its prospects grievously circumscribed, its right even to exist barely acknowledged. Now it will be reminded of its subordinate status by the human conqueror, the “master species” that lords over the rest of nature with the same, brutal arrogance exhibited by the Spanish, the English, and the Zionists in their various colonial possessions. While the brains of Florida hunters may be able to manage the physical task of shouldering a firearm (any natural inclination not to shoot another living thing having been deliberately short-circuited by social pressure), they are utterly incapable of perceiving the immorality of this larger picture. They, and the power structure they help support, have not yet evolved beyond the colonial pathology of taking land and resources by force. For those of us who have, the ultimate question is how far we are willing to go to resist their depredations. We do not have long to provide an answer: our friends are hanging on for dear life.

Black bear cubs climbing a pine tree

*******

8/23/15 Update

On August 22nd, the Tampa Bay Times reported that FWC Chairman Corbett has resigned, effective September 1. No reason was given. Governor Scott has promoted Brian Yablonski to take over as Chairman, and has appointed Robert Spottswood, a “wealthy hotel builder and attorney from Key West” to fill the vacancy on the Commission. Another classic member of Florida’s aristocracy, Spottswood can be relied upon to shepherd the property developers’ interests in “managing” wildlife, just as he can be trusted to use his medical background (nil) to improve healthcare for Florida citizens as an appointee to Scott’s recently-formed Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding. (Only one member of that Commission is a bona fide medical professional, a fact as instructive about the Commission’s purpose as Mr. Spottswood’s five-figure contributions to Scott’s campaigns. To arrive at the right decisions, one must empower the right people.)

Since this article was written, the statewide protest campaign, Stop The Florida Bear Hunt, has added an event at the Umatilla Black Bear Festival on October 10th. Please see their Facebook page for more details.

9/3/15 Update

At its September 2nd meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, the FWC confirmed that the hunt’s quota would remain as previously discussed and refused to revisit its authorization of the hunt, even though the Commission’s general counsel acknowledged, in response to a public question, that the Commission could legally call off the hunt, and testimony demonstrated that trash-management approaches had been shown to reduce bear-human conflicts by as much as 95%. Commissioner Bergeron reiterated his opposition to any quota in the absence of proper data to support the proposition that the bears have exceeded the carrying capacity of the environment, and noted that the 2014 estimate of population in the large Central BMU implies a growth rate of only 2% a year. Perhaps the only surprise of the day was the negative vote of the new Commissioner, Robert Spottswood, who was very concerned about the possibility that the “harvest” quota could be exceeded before two days had passed. Perhaps we were too quick judge Mr. Spottswood, and perhaps Rick Scott will come to regret appointing him as much as Dwight Eisenhower regretted nominating William Brennan to the Supreme Court.

10/4/15 Update

On October 1st,  Speak Up Wekiva lost its bid for an emergency injunction to stop the bear hunt. Magnanimous in defeat, Chuck O’Neal praised the fairness of the judge, George Reynolds III, and reminded his campaign’s supporters that their larger lawsuit against the hunt continues in the background. That lawsuit, however, will not be able to save any bears in 2015.

The testimony of Dr. Thomas Eason, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, was noteworthy in several respects. He admitted for the record that the Florida black bear has not exceeded the biological carrying capacity of its habitat. He also conceded that there would be nothing wrong in waiting until the results of the ongoing population study have been fully tabulated (expected in 2016), explicitly stating that the decision to hunt now was driven by the political appointees on the Commission, not by FWC biologists. But most striking was Eason’s inability to articulate a coherent rationale for the hunt, a problem that has plagued the FWC from the beginning. Despite all the FWC’s statements that managing the bear population is a goal independent of public-safety concerns, and FWC admissions that hunting will not prevent bear-human conflicts, Dr. Eason himself, when pressed by opposing counsel to explain why the population had to be “managed,” kept returning to matters of public safety, property damage, and the increase in nuisance calls. Given that Dr. Eason has previously shown (in testimony at the Ft. Lauderdale Commission hearing and elsewhere) that bear-human conflicts can be almost entirely solved by trash management, and given that he – the state’s leading bear biologist – admits the bear has not exceeded the carrying capacity of its habitat, it is painfully obvious that the management argument remains inseparable from the failure of Florida’s humans to act appropriately in bear country. If there is a rational basis for the hunt, we will have to look for it somewhere outside the policy-making process.

The hearing’s failure to expose the incoherence of the FWC’s policies was exacerbated by its superficial discussion of the FWC’s 2012 Bear Management Plan. In an extensive conversation with this author, a state biologist agreed that hunting was mentioned in the plan only in passing; the overwhelming majority of the plan’s 200-plus pages focuses on helping the bear to “thrive” by improving its habitat, with an emphasis on establishing corridors between isolated sub-populations and on expanding habitat opportunities on both public and private lands. Amendment 1, passed by a super-majority of Florida voters last year, instructed the legislature to appropriate funds for precisely these kinds of purposes, but the legislature has flagrantly violated those instructions – yet another clear illustration that the Constitution is “just a piece of paper” for so-called conservatives. Contrary to the representations of FWC counsel in the injunction hearing, hunting was not really on the table until the political appointees put it there for reasons that make sense to them.

Florida’s political branches have set the bear up to fail. Efforts by bear biologists to implement trash-management programs in bear country have been met by indifference and familiar arguments about lack of funds. Instead of following the wishes of biologists and the people to improve bear habitats, the state has misdirected conservation funds and allowed real-estate development to proceed on its collision-course with wilderness areas. When predictable conflicts occur between bears and humans, the state has its pretext to “manage” the bear population. It is not entirely accurate, therefore, to ascribe the coming bloodbath to a lack of human intelligence, for the blame lies with a very particular type of human intelligence – one that discounts ethical considerations down to zero in its relentless pursuit of profit accumulation by the few. Beyond the reach of judicial review and untouchable through political processes in a gerrymandered state, this species of rationality will have to be managed in some other way.

39 Comments

  1. VGN4THM

    Land, resources, innocent lives taken by the force of entitled male wealth and power. Truly disgusting. And it is overwhelming to know that this culture of blood lust will continue to be bred, generation after generation, for we all know there are at least several dozen women out there just waiting to nab one of these “men.” 

    Real men shoot with cameras, not guns. Real women don’t need rich men

    1. editor

      Obviously, I understand where you’re coming from, but there is a nature v. nurture issue here. Aliese Priddy is a powerful reminder that girls can be programmed to kill every bit as well as men. And she’s not interested in sharing any of those kills with the panthers.

    2. Astevia

      I completely agree with you. Greedy, corrupt politicians doing whatever they want to do.. They don’t listen to the majority of the population. I see that this country is being run by the rich, just like in Latin America. I see the same pattern. 

  2. Kenneth Frazier

    It amazes me that these idiots in favor of the bear hunt haven’t got the common sense to realize that killing bears in the deep forest isn’t going to solve the problems of the ones getting into garbage cans in and near the towns , as bears stay close to food sources .

    This entire bear hunt is about the dollars it will generate … the THRILL of the KILL ….. for idiots that have no compassion or concern for the lives of these poor bears about to be slaughtered …

    Have they watched as a mother bear teaches her cubs how to forge for berries ? How to climb a tree ? Or just watched a mother bear interact with her cubs … the love is real ….  and is sad that some hunters will be cutting their lives short with murdering them ….

    Hopefully ; the law suit will prevail … the injunction will be granted and eventually the entire bear hunt will be stopped …. for GOOD !

  3. Debbie Rhodes

    When did environmental concerns become partisan?  I am a republican and am deeply concerned for our environment and especially the current plight of the Florida black bear.  I have written sent many emails, voiced opposition, and tried to educate people regarding what’s going on.  I’m offended that Democrats seem to think that because the FWC board is made up of a large number of appointed republicans by a republican governor, that every republican doesn’t care about the state of Florida and what is happening to it’s wildlife and lands.  I may have mistaking voted for the loser who seems to want to do away with everything natural about the state, but I did not vote for the one who wants to do away with the entire nation by his biased Islamic third world sympathy towards a culture drenched in killing humans.

    1. editor

      Just so we’re clear, Debbie, although this website started out as a response to right-wing propaganda, we soon realized that both parties were singing from essentially the same, corporate-composed hymnal. If you explore the rest of this site, you will find extensive discussion of the false choice presented to America’s voters, and a particularly sharp focus on Barack Obama’s role in maintaining the illusion that the Democrats really care about people and the planet. There is full-spectrum complicity in the conquest of nature.

      Had Alex Sink been elected when Scott first ran, the composition of the FWC might have been slightly different – probably more lawyers than ranchers – but the underlying faith in economic growth would not have been questioned. As for Charlie Crist, when he was Governor (before his Damascene Conversion) every member of his FWC had ties to development. He didn’t deserve a second chance.

      We, too, know some Republicans who are deeply committed to environmental issues and walk the talk. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Until humans recognize that they must not just stop impinging on the rest of nature but actively restore what they have already destroyed (of course, much of it can never be recovered), then the animals are all doomed. Mother Earth has contracted a fatal disease: anthropocentrism.

    2. Joan Davis

      This issue goes beyond any republican or democrat ideology. The lack of moral character leading to illegitimate decisions by wealthy politicos has created this culture of attacking our natural world.  The arrogance and corruption that privilege so often engenders has handed down a cruel death sentence to our precious black bears.  Our iconic panthers are next unless we amass an army of people producing accurate environmental studies, lawsuits, petitions, media blitzes and protests to do whatever it takes to roll back the assault on our native Florida wildlife.     

  4. Marion

    Sickening. What subspecies of human is this again? I find it appalling just because we all have skin and breath oxygen etc etc we’re all just considered one species. Look at that top photo…the big white hunters had to set every bear over a log and prop up their heads with sticks to get their big lethal white birdbrain photo. They likely have peanuts for balls.

    Yesterday I read about a ‘charity’ that grants sick kids wishes….the little monsters wishes are to kill bears and other animals.

    “United Special Sportsman Alliance, Inc. (USSA) is an all volunteer 501(c)(3)non-profit wish granting charity that specializes in sending critically ill and disabled youth and disabled veterans on the outdoor adventure of their dreams! USSA adventures give our youth and veterans something to look forward to, and help sustain them in their time of need!

    Families are whisked away from the mundane, man-made world of hospitals, and high medical bills by giving them a place of peace to focus on the quality of life, family ties, and the wonders of our natural world! “…..KILLING ANIMALS.

    1. editor

      Good God almighty! But we really shouldn’t be surprised. Capitalistic imperialism is inherently violent and requires the inculcation of a predatory mindset. Our corporate media decry the mass shooting of schoolchildren or movie-goers, but say next to nothing about the billions of animals killed every year to keep Americans fat and unhealthy, or about the millions of people (in foreign countries, but that can change) killed by America’s interventions. Until we confront the violence at the heart of our system, none of these atrocities can be averted.

    1. editor

      Indeed – at both the micro and macro levels! But our problem, Guy, is that the “self-entitled rich men,” through control of the organs of state and the media, are the ones who get to define what constitutes responsible behavior.

  5. James Blevins

    Rick Scott and his merry band of thugs,,, Corbett a real estate investors has his agenda. Priddy has her agenda as those Panthers cost her alot of money when they killed some of her prized calves. Fortunately the Panther is federally protected and Priddy nor the rest of the commission can do anything about that. I wish they would try so we could see them get bounced out on their heads. I have never seen such a corrupt board besides the BLM. Rick must be desperate for all the pocket money he is getting as he has ruined his career in politics. The Republican party is  even embarrassed by his crooked governing of the state, Total disrespect to the people who pay their salaries,, Maybe we should call for a investigation of the whole board of commissioners with FWC,, Im sure alot of interesting facts will emerge.

    1. Joan Davis

      Yes, indeed. As a Floridian, I am numb with sadness and grief at the loss of so many of our beautiful black bears in such a violent out of control massacre..  I am also filled with outrage at the depth of corruption, non-wildlife protection special interests that perpetrated this unmitigated disaster.  From Gov. Rick Scott, who has the high honor of being the worst, most corrupt governor in Florida’s history on down the line to his hand picked non-scientific appointed FWC commissioners where 6 of the 7 voted for this bear slaughter. Millions of Floridians are calling for immediate action aimed at the FWC.  Many have called for firings and in my opinion Gov. Scott should resign.   

  6. Brenda

    Conservation = conserve( not destroy) Only God can have controle over his creation. Man need not think of himself as God!
    The bear hunt image looks like a photo from the 1800’s when this sort of thing was necessary for survival! In this day and age however!!!  Very sad and pathetic waist, not only of the bears life but of the human brains that take part in such destructive actions!

  7. Dominique

    Even CALIFORNIA FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCY OFFERS "BIG GAME HUNTING" for a subsidized amount of only 11.37, from the tax payers, without their knowledge or understanding support this.. The corruption of all the Wildlife agencies is rouge and rampant, every board, every commission is dominated by hunters. There is no accountability for what they do and the public is clueless, and those of us that are not, are labeled and undermined because of the oligarchy system that controls these agencies. So far, no politicians want to take on this enormous and dangerous task of changing this obvious system of corruption. I am currently just starting to expose this "Share" program that I have known about for a while but because of F&W keeping this information obscure from the public, they had just posted this link exposing the evidence, not concerned about any objections that would come their way..that was right before Cecil, and they still know that only hunters check that website, and occasionally a few anti-hunter activists that they don't care about exposing them for any back lash. The way I am approaching this at this point is staring with my state, only because CA is suppose to be a progressive and compassionate state and if we can make changes in the structure of F&W, the other states will have to follow eventually, and maybe after it can be stopped in at least 1 or 2 states we can approach this federally, for those states that are going to be near impossible. Any help would be appreciated, for I am just starting on this campaign. I know of many wildlife activists armed with statistics to present proving that "Wildlife Watching" provides in any given area, at least 10 times the revenue as murdering these innocent animals, which in itself says so much about these wildlife agencies and the blood thirsty sociopaths that run them, https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/share-program-offers-big-game-and-upland-game-hunts-in-santa-barbara-county/

  8. Tracey Dunn Williamson

    It is amazing the entitlement these thrill killers feel towards sentient life lives no one owns. Living in the region wild animals live does not give ownership.  However; we all know corrupt men make crooked laws that cater to the likes of these impotent people. Hunting is big business and with Congress itself having a sportsmen’s club to further the interests of hunting , it is no wonder we find more of the earths wild life sold off to the highest bidder. Every wildlife agency is corrupt to the core, catering to hunters and cattlemen. These hunters who find every excuse to justify killing, from claiming the animals dangerous to conservation, are laughingly transparent. From the Dallas Safari Club turning wild  animal slaughter into contests and bonuses, to canned hunting , these thrill killing,  people are nothing but sub standard people who enjoy killing.  I wonder who they would be victimizing if they could not harm innocent animals. Trophy hunting is deeply corrupt, from fat white land owners to high officials. Follow the money- Greed is the new god.  I find it interesting these people think killing animals with high powered weapons makes them powerful. Who CANNOT do that ?  They are a bad joke. Why don’t they hunt something that can shoot back ? Takes to much time changing when you are constantly peeing your pants. I rank these cowards right up there with pedophiles.

    1. editor

      Christine, could it be that this country is not actually as civilized as most Americans have been taught to believe? The present instance is only one small case in a pattern of decidedly uncivilized behavior, none of which will change until the people of this country start perceiving reality clearly.

  9. Candace Charvoz Frank

    Cecil the lion’s illegal and inhumane death by it’s member is business as usual for Safari Club International. But the larger story of SCI’s litigating against species protection to assure supply of trophies for a perverse subculture of uber wealthy and status seeking wannabees has been overlooked. SCI has used money to infiltrate most every governmental function agency or legislative body regulating wildlife.

    I am writing from Tucson, Az, where the discrete headquarters of the Safari Club International (SCI) is located in their International Wildlife Museum. Their devastating impact on state wildlife policies, a microcosm of their national and international impact, has been ‘flying under the radar’ for decades despite Quixotic efforts of local wildlife activists and conservation orgs.

    There is now heightened public focus on the depravity of recreational trophy killing after a member of SCI lured the iconic lion Cecil from protected territory and recklessly killed him in a protracted death with bow and arrows. Yet much of how SCI operates remains obscured by a sophisticated marketing machine promoting discredited faux conservation and conflating traditional hunting values of common game mostly for consumption with recreational killing of the biggest and best animals from over 320 species especially of rare, endangered and mega fauna for top honors in macabre killing contests for The Record Book.

    This story, which involves the subversion of every level of government that manages or legislates wildlife protections by SCI’s decadent sub culture of massive wealth, is ripe for exposure. There are enormous resources of public record, especially Humane Society research (with permission), including information from SCI’s own website that has not yet been presented to broad audience.

    Since access to wildlife for killing and importation of trophies must be maintained at high levels, SCI is perhaps the most influential organization seeking to weaken or eliminate species protections and litigates to remove protections from most endangered, rare and iconic species for elite trophy hunting including elephants, lions, leopards and rhino. See extensive sample of litigation: http://www.scifirstforhunters.org/advocacy/litigation

    As with common predators or any species that impacts trophy species, SCI considers wild horses and burros nuisance species to be eradicated and have targeted protections in the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and litigated against wild horse protections in various states.

    The Humane Society has done excellent research on the Safari Club with additional references: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/opposition/facts/safari_club_faq.html
    http://www.rense.com/general45/view.htm * EXCELLENT*

    Reporting on Safari Club tax violation and trophy importation fraud: http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/05/4/tsg.safariClubIntl4.05.htm

    This publically available information is being circulated to prompt media outlets to put a spotlight on SCI’s abhorrent destruction of species protections for the craven obsessions of wealth: killing for killing’s sake.

    Candace Charvoz Frank
    Tucson, Az

  10. cyndi

    Excellent piece. I’ve written a lot ab out this on my blog about the connection with the Pacific Legal Foundation and their connection to all this. Here is one about manatees. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-record-manatee-count-20150316-story.html
    There is a connect between corbett and the pacific legal foundation. I’ve been writing about this for months. They are supported by the koch brothers and the scaife foundation. I have links if you need.

  11. pilar Toro

    Most Animal advocates understand that Bears aren’t Teddy Bears. There is nothing dashing about these guys. What I see is a bunch of egotistical, psychopaths.

    Richard Corbett, needs to be fired! We have a bunch of cronies running the state of Florida, starting with Rick Scott, a thug that got elected because people did not go out and vote.

    .

  12. alex brown

    While your article makes some great points; loss of habitat, public opinion, and carrying capacity calculations not complete.  I am not entirely convinced allowing 10% of the population of bears to be harvested would do as much harm as you say. I also take great issue that anyone who supports hunting, including bear hunting, makes them “invaders” and evil white men. Lastly, I think you do the article a huge disservice to equate the bear hunters and their methods to Zionism. Most Floridians who study history will side with Israel, not the anti-semetic, anti gay, misogynistic terrorists in Palestinian.  So, while you push back against the FWC and feel obligated to rant against their alleged bias,  your own bias is astounding by suggesting Palestinians are the victims and their land was stolen or somehow invaded. 
    Many wonderful people hunt and are not evil. Also I don’t think one should assume that all hunters are right wing. Many wonderful people, from all stripes, enjoy getting outdoors and harvesting animals. Afterall, whether you believe in evolution or creation, hunting has always been and will always be part of our American culture. 

    1. editor

      Thank you for visiting.

      Florida’s 2012 Bear Management Plan (BMP) calls for a minimum bear population of 1,000 in the largest subpopulation (which happens to be the Central BMU). Anything less than that, according to the internationally recognized standards that influenced the decision to delist the bear in Florida, is dangerous for genetic viability. The BMP actually aims for bear populations that are thriving, and defines sustainability as a healthy population free of the risk of returning to threatened status. FWC’s bear biologists would really like to see the population stay where it is (only about two sentences in the 200+ page report spoke of hunting as a management tool), but their studies tell them that a 20% mortality rate (background losses plus the hunt) can be supported. Apart from all the morality issues that have been outlined above, the State is playing a very risky game, pushing a species that has just recovered back towards a level that is only minimally acceptable. We can, and should, do better than that.

      As far as “invaders” are concerned, I did not limit that remark, as you suggest, solely to hunters. Rather, I was quite explicit that the entire human race is an invasive species. That view may not sit well with you, but mankind has a tendency to perceive reality in self-serving, anthropocentric terms. Every week, the human population of Florida grows by more than the entire population of black bears. The impact of those humans on the environment is massive, and we can not have a meaningful conversation about the future of our planet without acknowledging that central fact.

      On the Palestinian issue, I am painfully aware of the views of most Floridians – and most Americans – on that subject. As a counterpoint to the “bias” of the Western corporate media, you might want to consider the voting record of the United Nations on this issue, or the opinion of Nelson Mandela (which we discussed in an earlier essay on this website). You could also read some essays by Noam Chomsky or John Pilger.

      The defense of hunting on the classical conservative grounds that it is traditional is not terribly powerful. Stringing niggers from trees was part of our culture for a very long time; eventually, we grew out of it. If you wanted to defend hunting on the grounds that an animal harvested from the wild at least had some chance of a normal life, or that the meat is much healthier than the products of factory farms, you would be on firmer territory. But even then, it should be clear that a human population of such bloated proportions cannot feed itself in this way. Practices that may have been appropriate in the 18th century are not appropriate today. We have taken so much from the animal kingdom. It is time to leave the animals alone, and manage our own numbers.

      Finally, while this essay is obviously not sympathetic to hunters, its focus is ultimately on the elitist economic philosophy of development uber alles. The hunters are just pawns in a much larger game. While they are enjoying themselves outdoors, they might want to ask themselves how much of the profit from the next subdivision in Seminole County is going to end up in their bank accounts. And they might want to think about the hunting opportunities they could have had in a State with half the human population and vastly more bear habitat. I would have a great deal more respect for the hunting community if they recognized that the Republican politicians who pander to them are actually selling their real interests down the river.

  13. KARAN SOTO

    Obviously outside Animal Welfare and Environmental conservation must intervene absolutely from now going forward….the task of bear relocation when needed and facilitating animal protected areas be immediately put in place.  These people have become a nuciance with their trophy hunting o.f endangered wildlife ….and can no longer be trusted for even the least sensible decisions 

    Highly offensive these hunters with barbaric actions and outdated statements …..I push for outside of Florida legislation intervention.  The stupidity of these recent actions on the part of a sheer small minority of hunters is an open ongoing embarrassment to the otherwise great state of Florida.

    Never have hunters been so scientifically uneducated …..surely this proves that a needed reform of guns is warranted….I myself will also continue to closely follow Florida wildlife.

  14. Catman

    I’ve hunted deer for meat in the past, when times were trying, but I’ve never ‘shot animals for sport. Anyone who shoots animals for sport is a spineless, ball-less leech who is the real pest.

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