The Lingering Stench of Death: Witnessing the Developers’ War on Florida’s Black Bears, October 24-25, 2015

This photo-essay contains images of an extremely graphic nature, which have intentionally been placed “below the fold” on this page. They are displayed here not for the purpose of gratuitous sensationalism, but to expose to the civilized portion of mankind the true impact of a policy-making structure utterly corrupted by powerful financial interests and of a culture possessed by demonic anthropocentrism. These images document the death of 18 beautiful, innocent, sentient creatures who were denied the right to follow their unique paths through life in an environment that was ideally suited to their wants and needs. Every drop of blood symbolizes not merely a loss of life but a loss of decency, a perversion of science, an affront to democracy, and an indelible stain on the character of the State of Florida.

But these images, powerful as they are, remain a grossly inadequate means of communication. For they fail to convey to the viewer the smell of death and the onset of decomposition, a putrescence that lingers not just over the blood-soaked ground of the game check stations but over the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the administration of Governor Rick Scott. They do not record the cries of the victims as bullets or arrows entered their bodies – cries lost deep in the woods, heard only by the insensate killers, far from the respected chambers of human power and the television screens of contented consumers. They do not transmit the pain that was felt, the sense of confusion, panic, and fear in the moments before death – feelings that we, too, are capable of, but which we fail to acknowledge in our fellow animals. They do not record the fate or relay the emotions of orphaned cubs, left to fend for themselves many months before nature intended, grieving the loss of their mothers, and poorly prepared to meet the challenges of a human-dominated world that has set itself against even this most iconic representative of “the real Florida.”

Over the weekend of October 24-25, 2015, that “real Florida” was dealt a blow that will prove to be mortal in all the days that follow. The Florida bear hunt, portrayed by the FWC as a science-based, conservative, and well-regulated policy to manage the black bear population, was none of those things, as this author and others have documented elsewhere. The Florida bear hunt should be understood for what it really was: a turning point in the relationship between Florida’s invasive human population and all the other species who lived here first, and a victory for the insatiable greed and myopic ignorance of the property-developer complex that controls the policies of that human population. Having permanently destroyed most of the bears’ natural habitat, the human infestation – now just under 20 million and increasing every week by more than the total population of black bears – entered the few isolated pockets of “real Florida” left for the bears and sent an unmistakable message:

You will not be allowed to have any more land than the areas to which we have confined you (even though our bear biologists, after five years of careful study, said you should be given more usable habitat). Although our behavior is responsible for human-bear conflicts, we will punish you for our own failures. And we won’t just slap you on the wrist, as we do to our own kind. No, we will enter your ancestral homes, follow your paw prints through your beloved forest, murder you, rip open your stomachs, feed your guts to the vultures, leave your dependent children to starve to death or be killed by coyotes, and promise to do all of this to you again, at any time of our choosing, all under the banner of “conservation.”

A predictable target for anti-hunt activists, the hunters who carried out this murder spree are the largely unwitting shock troops of the developer elite, who will not object in the slightest to popular identification of the wrong villain. Separation of the proximate from the ultimate cause of this atrocity is essential if the blood flow is to be stanched, but it requires a transformation of human behavior that extends far beyond trash-management in bear country – a transformation inimical to elite interests, and effectively resisted by their co-opted hunters. Every shot fired in the name of bear-population management not only pierced the flesh of an innocent victim, but repelled perception of the obvious fact that the wrong population was being managed.1 And every hunter enforcing the State’s depraved new definition of sustainability2 within currently “available habitats” guaranteed that much of the habitat that could potentially be made available for bears (and the other forms of wildlife about which hunters claim to care) will, in due course, become habitat for humanity. In the anthropocene, black bears are doomed to extinction by their failure to live in houses, take out mortgage loans, drive cars, and shop at Wal-Mart. No amount of “eco-tourism” can ever compete with the profits to be derived from ever-expanding human activity. Thus, the blood dripping from the tailgates of pick-up trucks left a trail not just in the sandy soil of the Ocala National Forest but in the fabric of a human society organized around the accumulation of wealth by an overweening ruling class.

When the humans issued their ceasefire late on 10/25, the official death toll released by the FWC was 295 bears, slightly less than 10% of the estimated population.3 That figure will almost certainly be revised upward due to poor command-and-control of the human forces, excludes an under-reporting problem of unknown dimensions, and fails to account for the “collateral damage” of orphaned cubs and wounded bears who will die later, plus the ripple effect of reduced fertility rates due to the extermination of so many adults of reproductive age. None of those omissions should for one moment be considered accidental: any additional enemy losses are always desirable for the conquering force.

Now look upon the casualties of their war, and never forget.

In Memoriam

[Every image can, and SHOULD, be viewed full-size by clicking on it. (Images open in a new window/tab) For live weights, reduce by 5.6lbs for the lifting net and increase by 25-30lbs if field-dressed. All photographs by author, taken at the Altoona Check Station in the Central Bear Management Unit.]

Murdered Florida Black Bear 1

Murdered Bear 1. A 242-lb lactating female. The killer, an excited young man, was warmly congratulated by the FWC staff.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 1

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 1. The civilian onlooker was NOT the killer.

 

Murdered Florida Black Bears

Murdered Bears 2 & 3. Two males, 377lbs & 176lbs. One of the killers requested that his picture not be shown. I respected his wishes, but deeply regret having done so.

 

Murdered Florida Black Bear.

Murdered Bear 4. Lactating female, 220lbs, field-dressed. The hunter refused comment to this author and to the Florida Channel. More congratulations from FWC staff.

 

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 5. Female, 214lbs, not lactating.

 

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 6. This small female, probably a yearling at 127lbs, was barely over the limit of 100lbs. The FWC bear biologist is evaluating tooth wear and extracting a tooth for analysis. Fur samples are also taken for genetic testing. Credit where it’s due: this biologist was extremely professional throughout what must have been a very difficult experience, and was exceptionally tolerant of this author’s proximity.

 

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 7. An FWC employee celebrates the murder of this 216lb female with the killer, at left.

 

Murdered Bear 8

Murdered bear 8. A 371lb female in “excellent condition,” said not to be lactating though this author and other witnesses saw milk. [Edit 11/22/15: The FWC’s final report on the bear hunt revealed that this was the largest female bear killed throughout the State of Florida. She was also one of the largest females ever recorded. The children are simply local residents observing the goings-on; they are not related to the hunter in any way. Community sentiment in their neighborhood was evenly divided on the hunt.]

Murdered Bears

The Three Bears: Murdered Bears 9, 10, & 11. All males, all field-dressed: 126lbs, 180lbs, & 185lbs.

Florida Bear Killers

The Three Killers survey their handiwork. This party contained the only female bear killer we saw.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 12. A young male, 126lbs, treated like trash.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 13. This little girl only weighed 117lbs.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 14. This 132lb, field-dressed male was small enough to be stuffed into a plastic cooler-coffin.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 15. This young female weighed only 126lbs after field-dressing. She was lactating.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 16. Another young female, only 135lbs.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 17. The last bear of the night, 10/24. Another small female, 126lbs. The hunt was closed in the Central Bear Management Unit (BMU) later that night, the “harvest” quota having been met in a single day.

Murdered Florida Black Bear

Murdered Bear 18. Killed on 10/25, after closure of this BMU, this was the largest bear reported at this station – a 431lb male.

Bear Hunter in Violation

An “Oh, Shit!” moment for the killer of Bear 18 as the biologist informs him that the hunt had been closed the night before and that he should have checked on the status of the unit before hunting today. The hunter claimed ignorance of that requirement, pointing out that the hunt was originally guaranteed to last at least two days, which was true until a late rule change following Speak Up Wekiva’s failed request for an emergency injunction to stop the hunt. After much consultation, Bear 18 was impounded and the hunter was ticketed. A complete waste of a magnificent animal, due to poor design and implementation of the hunt.

*******

  1. A clarification for any cognitively impaired visitors who somehow found their way here: this is not a call for hunting humans, but it is most definitely a call for an intelligent human population policy.
  2. 20% mortality from all causes, with the hunt accounting for approximately half of that.
  3. The hunt proceeded before the statewide population survey, due in 2016, had been completed. In a double insult to the principles of sound science, the hunt has just vitiated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of research, a fact conveniently overlooked in the FWC’s boasting that fees collected from the sale of 3,778 permits generated revenue that will help the bears by funding trash-management programs.

65 Comments

  1. Kimberlee Norton

    I cant thank you enough for being there with me at the way station. I dont know if I would have been strong enough with out your support and presence. This article was amazing and spoke volumes. for the Bear atrocities that happened on saturday. Rest In Peace Bears. Thank you so much

    1. Jacquie

      Ditto.  Well said, Kim.  Lacking the right verbiage at the moment., I very much appreciate your eloquence, objective and factual representation of the events at BMU #23, and most of all your presence.

    1. editor

      Those children were NOT the children or grandchildren of the hunter. They are the grandchildren of a local resident with whom I shared an unusually personal and challenging exchange. Out of respect to her, I am refraining from identifying them, and I am modifying the image caption so that other readers do not make the same assumption you did.

      1. Jeanne Fecht-Roberts

        Although this was heartbreaking to read & see the images of; I sincerely appreciate that you were there to record this. Such a travesty and a betrayal of the trust that we who voted for this organization years ago, placed in hopes of better stewardship of our beloved natural resources, and wildlife unique to Florida. Thank you again .

        1. editor

          I care whose children they are, and I know that the adult accompanying those children came away from that orgy of violence with much food for thought.

          If we are going to judge people for indoctrinating children, or other adults for that matter, into accepting heartless atrocities, then we will have to take a very close look at ourselves in the mirror.

          How many Americans consume the products of industrial “agriculture” with nary a thought for the unbelievable suffering of factory-farmed animals, treated like production units instead of sentient individuals with a right to a proper life?

          How many Americans accepted Lyndon Johnson’s reasons for bombing Vietnam, Richard Nixon’s reasons for bombing Cambodia, Ronald Reagan’s reasons for supporting the Nicaraguan contras, George H.W. Bush’s reasons for bombing civilian infrastructure in Iraq, Bill Clinton’s reasons for bombing Yugoslavia, George W. Bush’s reasons for bombing Afghanistan and Iraq, and Barack Obama’s reasons for raining hellfire on villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?

          How many Americans accept the constant assertion that Israel is our friend and ally, and believe the one-sided account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that demonizes the victims of an overwhelming and brutal force subsidized by American taxpayers?

          We could go on, but the point should be clear: Florida’s bear hunt is a wake-up call. Ordinary Americans must realize that violence such as this is a stock-in-trade for the ruling class. The only difference was that this happened right under our noses – and I for one can not get that stench out of my nostrils.

    2. lynn topolansky

      My question is did any I f these pieces of crap, even look to find the poor little orphaned baby bears, that they left behind, lactating females mean she was nusing babies. This is so sad and disgusting, i loathe people that hnut innocent animals!

      1. editor

        Of course not. And the FWC is not interested in looking for them either. The anti-hunt organization, Speak Up Wekiva, thoroughly explored the viability of attempting to rescue these cubs, but after consultation with experienced animal rescuers concluded that they would be best left on their own, as harsh as that undoubtedly is.

        The FWC’s biologist told me that lactation can continue for some time after cubs are weaned and said the lactating mothers might not necessarily still be with their cubs. But obviously some still were. At eight months old they have a chance of survival, but even if they make it against the odds they will not have been adequately “educated” and are more likely to become “problem” bears as they grow older. This sets up a vicious cycle in which the very wildlife “managers” who caused the problem provide themselves with a pretext to hunt again. It is the same failure to respect the social ecology of animal populations that we see in attempts to “manage” wolves and coyotes out west, which we discussed here over two years ago.

    1. editor

      Betsy – I understand your anger toward the hunters, but please don’t let that cloud your judgment. The people ultimately responsible for this hunt do not fit into the accepted definition of “white trash,” for they are at the other end of the social spectrum. Having said that, it may be time for us to redefine the term, “white trash” to more accurately reflect the quality of this elite’s contribution to society.

      1. Geoff

        The term “white trash” should not be taken as a description of a person’s socio-economic status, that would indeed be unfair. What “white trash” does accurately reflect is a certain mindset all to prevalent in today’s United States: ignorant, self-centered, privileged, greedy, selfish, and morally depraved. And that characterization certainly applies, in spades, to the collection of ugly cretins captured in the photographs that accompany this article as well as to the white collar white trash that sit on the Florida state game commission.. Trash is what they are and, like other detritus, in the garbage can is where they belong.

    1. Shirlene Stuckey

      Lots of are part of our heritage, but we no longer practice them. Slavery, the attempted annihilation of the Native Americans, out houses, writing with a quill and ink, no public education….. This is the 21st century, for God’s sake, they either need to join us here, or go live in caves.

      1. editor

        Shirlene – It could be argued that we have not evolved as far as we like to think. A close look at American foreign policy in the Middle East reveals some striking resemblances to the destruction of the Native American Nations. But much of the depravity was hidden from public view by careful control of the media, which in several cases involved the deliberate bombing of foreign media organizations whose voices could not be controlled by the occupying forces as easily as “embedded” journalists. Florida’s bear hunt took place, literally, right under our noses, but I’m afraid to say that it is only a small representative sample of what America’s ruling class is capable of.

  2. Sarah

    utterly moronic move by The State. This is the last straw for me.FLORIDA  SUCKS. The beach is covered in trash, everyone is killing OUR wildlife, left & right! Then this?!? HOW MANY EMPTY HOUSES SIT, while you greedy morons build more?!?  This is wrong, war has been going up against floridas natural wonders and wildlife too long. Soon there will be no real Florida left. this enrages me…. You are straling frim our children, from our world….. Who do you think you are?
    When everything is dead, try & Eat your money, you rich bastards!!!

  3. Kelly Hayward

    It’s time to show the world who these people are.  If anybody has photos of the hunters, we should all post to social media until people of the internet can identify the killers/hunters/murderering bastards.  It’s time for public shunning and public humiliation. 
    These people walk among us as “normal”,  They hide in plain sight in our families, our churches, our schools, our governments, our places of employment.  They shop alongside us at the grocery stores and accompany us in many other routine activities in our daily lives.  Why should we allow it? Why should we be polite and couteous and sociable to people that we know, “just love to hunt”,???   I think it’s time for all of us to collectively stop tolerating this in our social lives.   

    1. editor

      Kelly – As I noted in the captions for Murdered Bears 2 & 3, I made a huge mistake in capitulating to one of the killer’s demands to have his photograph erased. Surrounded by armed FWC officers and desperate to retain access to the scene, I chose not to resist. But the reality was that he had taken the life of a bear – a life that he may have thought he had purchased for $100 but which was never the State’s to sell. The bear did not belong to anyone or anything but the forest. I – and many others – did not want him to take that bear. Had I asked him to refrain from doing so – to “erase” his purchase of a permit, he would have sneered in refusal. And now he expects me to refrain from taking his picture? Even one of the armed officers, who later asked me what kind of information I was recording and seemed a little concerned that I might be tracking hunters’ license plates (I wasn’t), seemed to understand the grotesque imbalance of those interests.

      That said, while shaming the hunters might make it more difficult for the elite to recruit its troops, there will always be a certain number of sociopaths who will jump at the chance to spill blood. And it’s not hard to imagine the FWC keeping the check-in process further away from prying eyes.

      Ultimately, Kelly, we must not allow our feelings towards the hunters to distract us from the real cause of the violence: the men and women who placed these armed forces in the woods. If you want to shame someone, concentrate on the Commissioners who voted for the hunt and on the political apparatus that places cronies in positions that should be awarded to those who wish to conserve wildlife rather than maximize profits.

      1. Penny

        I appreciate very much the way your comments are made in a fair, even manner as well as the clarity with which you try to redirect people’s attention from the distractions and stereotypes so often comfortably thrown into the dialogue by viewers.  Thank you for your efforts here and know there are many, many of us who care.  It’s difficult to unite enough to create a force that can change things for the better.

  4. Thomas Allison

    Thank you for sharing. I was stationed at Check station #21 where we had 49 bears the first day. 11 of which were lactating females and one under weight cub. I like the other monitors know too well what a toll this has taken on the bears, and on us. I shared my images and story and I am glad you have done so too. Now we need to make sure these images do not fade from the hearts and minds of those Floridians who claim they “had no clue”this was going on. I photographed every victim and I got as many of the killers and license plates as I could. Our FWC personnel were polite and respectful and it was evident at least one of them did not enjoy what was being done although he said nothing. I was appalled at the stories being told and overheard one father answering his young daughter’s question about “why that bear had to die?”with an ignorant, “You remember them monsters we told you about in the woods, well you gotta kill them before they kill you.” Somehow I imagined through all the blood and images that he was talking about himself. Another person i one of the forums stated how it was amazing that such a large creature as a male black bear could tread so softly in the forest. My reply; t is too bad that we as a species cannot learn to tread that softly as well. I hope you have taken some time for yourself after this. I know I had to and still need more.

    1. editor

      Thank you, Thomas.

      Jesus Christ! I knew there was a lot of activity at Ocala North (including on Sunday) but I didn’t realize it was that bad. Your day was probably worse than ours, but in the final analysis we still got to go back to our homes and families. The bears did not. For that reason and others I don’t really feel like taking any more than minimal time for myself. The last thing I want to do right now is fall back into a comfortable routine. This is a war, and it’s not over: the generals are already laying their plans for next year’s campaign, using the data extracted from this year’s victims to bolster their fraudulent claim of science-based management.

      I love your expression, “tread softly.” That is a beautiful guiding principle for humanity. The paws of the victims will never again feel the damp morning ground, grasp a tree trunk, or tear through a bee hive. But they left huge prints in our hearts. Let them stay there forever, never to be obliterated by the transient and superficial concerns of the human consumer culture laying waste to the wilderness.

  5. Anita Pinelli Phillips

    Thank you for this well written article. You certainly did your research. Too bad the State of Florida did not. These images show the horror of what the FWC has allowed and I will be posting this entire article with images on Advocating for Bears  (FB) and tweeting same. This was an ATROCITY that should never be allowed to happen in any state ever again!

  6. Sandra

    Thank you to all who went out to record this horrific event so it will not be forgotten.  My heart goes out to each of you for the unbelievable job you had to do.  A piece of me died with those bears last weekend.  You were strong for the bears when they had no voice. May your determination to continue the fight for them help to ease the pain of the experience and give you the strength to keep being a defender of their rights.  Peace to you all and thank you again.  

  7. Melanie Porter

    Thank you for your documentation and well written article. Although these photos are appalling and shocking they are NECESSARY. There are too many Floridians who are blind to what happened or refuse to look at what is happening. Your article is well informed and beautifully written. I feel that it is something that can and should be shared to educate those who are unaware or unwilling to look and fight back to protect our bears. This war needs more recruits on the side of the bears and reporting like yours is a tool that I feel can do so. I just wish the hunters who feel so entitled to kill these animals could pause for a moment and consider these truths. I see the children in the photos and think, this is how these hunters grew up, this is what they know. Can we teach them otherwise? Will they listen? In the meantime, I agree, our efforts should be focused to take out the people in power who allowed it in the first place. You were brave to place yourself at the scene and I thank you!

  8. Betty Holden

    This was a travesty – an absolute horror! Are those hunters who killed bears and lactating females going to be fined and prosecuted? That was against the rules, and I haven’t heard yet what is happening to them because of breaking the rules. Also, the state should have stickers attached to the bear-proofed garbage cans that they will buy now that say how the garbage containers were obtained – thru killing the Florida bears.

    1. editor

      Killing lactating females wasn’t against the rules. Killing bears in the presence of cubs was against the rules. Of course, that rule was always going to result in orphaned cubs because mother bears frequently “tree” their cubs up to 200 yards away while they take care of bear business.

      The FWC’s bear biologist told me that lactation can continue for some time after cubs have been weaned, so the fact that a female was lactating does not necessarily mean she still had cubs with her. That said, many of those females obviously did have cubs. At 8-9 months old, those cubs have a chance of surviving, but a greatly diminished one.

  9. ElkePelke

    Going forward, instead of killing these beautiful creatures, can we not catch and inject them with a birth control shot?? You’ll be reducing numbers because they won’t be able to procreate!! Make it a fair thing….. Announce that you need to raise X amount of $…. You know you can raise the money selling permits…..then give us animal lovers a chance to donate enough money til you break even. I’d donate to save the bears…….

    1. editor

      Merely suggesting birth control as a solution reinforces the FWC’s bogus claim that the black-bear population needs to be managed. It doesn’t. What it needs – and this is what the FWC’s 2012 comprehensive Bear Management Plan actually called for – is more habitat. And that is the last thing the elite wants to see happen, because it impinges upon their potential profits.

      Birth control, however, should be mandatory for humans.

  10. Cherie Williams

    To all who were their to witness this abhorrent genocide waste of precious life I thank you

    This has impacted the whole world of advocacy. From here in Australia to every corner 

    The overpopulation of the human race is the issue. We destroy their only home at the same time destroying our planet. 

    To see these smiling assassins murders killers I have one thought hell is the only place they belong

    To the precious black bears, the mommas, the Cubs the elderly was empaths are so sorry and we pray this will never take place again
    Empaths United 🙏

  11. Lisa Moreno

    This is the lowest than any human being can go & how dare you bring those children to view the senseless killings of the bears ???? I hope that one day karma will bite you in the ass & may you suffer as those poor bears did !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Melanie Blake

    Thank you for everything you did.  The images are seared in my heart forever and I am beyond repulsed and filled with sorrow and rage..  We must not ever allow this to happen again.  Please everyone let’s work together and get this corrupt FWC changed including #killerscott.  
    New York magazine has an article out today and I ask you all to please comment.  The link is below.  Here is my comment :

     My comment : This was all a politically motivated and corrupt massacre particularly when you have commissioners on the board of an organization – paid for with our tax dollars to preserve and protect our wildlife – that are developers, kill addicts and ranchers appointed by the Governor himself. A handful of people chose to pander to these kill addicts and turned their backs on the Florida public opposed to this mass slaughter. There is no such thing as hunting in today’s time, it is legal serial killing orchestrated by sociopaths – soulless, heartless individuals who enjoy causing harm and suffering to those they can, much like rapists and pedophiles who love to conquer their victim. 

    When I hear people defend this murder and say it’s something we have always done, it’s part of our culture and get over it – I hear the same arguments used to defend slavery and other forms of oppression. I have watched enough videos and seen enough photos to be horrified as to how these individuals laugh at the suffering they are causing, enjoying watching their victim screaming in pain and then posing proudly with their dead victim, as if they have just found a cure for cancer. Normal???? This is repulsive and it is shocking that in the year 2015 there is still so much apathy surrounding this blood’sport’ and is called tradition and accepted. This is pure violence inflicted on those they can. You know who else keeps parts of their victims as trophies – serial killers. 

    Serial killers use euphemisms for murder such as harvesting, taking, managing. There was no need to harm any of these non-threatening animals and there is no place in a civilized world for such violence. Perhaps we as a species should look at our choices and behavior and taking every inch of space on this planet and pushing wildlife out of theirs. We move into their space. 

    This bear slaughter had nothing to do with conservation. Murder is not conservation as these kill addicts attempt to justify. An old blind bear, called grand-father that never bothered anyone and lived deep in the forests was one of the victims gunned down; over ten lactating mums and so now there are hundreds of orphaned cubs, and cubs too lost their lives by those who choose to enjoy murder. As you will learn many of these innocent bears were murdered on private property where they had been baited with food and as some of the killers found amusing were unafraid and did not run away, so just stood there while they gunned them down. 

    Learn the facts and get the truth. See some of the corruption by some of the FWC officers such as giving someone a cub they murdered which was supposed to be illegal. Cubs in coolers. The photos are there. The only people who are calling this bloody, brutal slaughter successful are the killers themselves and the developers and ranchers. This is a disgrace and one that the public will not forget. Watch the videos yourselves, visit the pages Stop the Florida Bear Hunt, and Floridians United to Save our Bears – see the images for yourselves. These bears were no threat to anyone. They are 80% herbivores and their food source, the palmetto berries have been taken from them. We take their land, their food source and their lives. FWC had other choices and they know it such as trash resistant trash cans which members of the FWC themselves say are over 90 per cent effective; making sure people do not leave trash out and of course not feeding the bears. 

    We are the invasive species, not the other way around. These sociopaths cannot even be debated because they are stuck in the past and are empty vessels. Just because something is legal and has been done for thousands of years does not make it ethical or right. #FWCkillsanimals

    Here is the article to comment :

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/10/florida-cuts-short-its-big-black-bear-hunt.html 

  13. Rob Roadman

    I have been on the phone today with the Governor’s office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation office.   I have learned sever disturbing things about FWC.  

     First, they are autonomous.  The Commissioner does not really answer to anyone and there is no real public input into their decisions, including the Bear Hunt.  While they DID have a public comment period prior to the hunt, it was not about whether or not the citizens of Florida wanted the hunt to take place.  Rather, it was to comment on their management policies in regard to the hunt.  In other words, they were GOING to have a bear hunt and the comments were limited to things only hunters would find interesting and useful. 

    Second, they exist in this autonomous capacity based on a constitutional amendment, passed by the voters of Florida.  They couldn’t tell me when that vote took place,  but the ONLY way to overturn their power do such things would be to amend the state constitution.

    Third, they are very defensive if questioned about the hunt. They tried VERY hard to refer me to their website rather than to actually talk to me.  When I stated that the website only included information they wanted to post rather than allowing me to ask specific questions, I was finally connected to someone.

    Fourth, when I asked if those who broke the rules by killing lactating mother bears would be held legally accountable, I was told that they would NOT be accountable.  The reason given was that “we cannot verify whether or not a female bear has cubs simply by the lactating condition.”   REALLY?  H

    1. Rob Roadman

      Sorry, the comment posted before I finished it and before I edited it.

      Fifth – Although the rules state that bears may not be baited, the rules do allow hunters to bait other animals.  IF a bear hunter puts out a bait station allegedly for kangaroos, then it is legal.   It is a known fact that bears are opportunistic eater and will eat what is available, including food left in bait stations for any animal.  Therefore, the “no baiting” rule is absolutely meaningless.  When I pointed this out, they had no response.

      In closing, I urge all Floridians to contact you elected officials and demand that they begin to work on changing the language of the Florida Constitution, though a new amendment, which removes the ability of the FWC to function without being answerable to the public. 

      Thank you

      1. editor

        Rob – In the America we were taught to believe in during our “socialization” process, what you suggest could be a viable solution. In the real world, however, even constitutional amendments are no more than pieces of paper.

        In 2010, Floridians passed a Fair Districts Amendment intended to prevent gerrymandering. The state legislature has been fighting it ever since, resulting in years of litigation. There may be some light at the end of that tunnel, since every single state representative and state senator will now have to face re-election, but I am not optimistic.

        In 2014, we passed Amendment 1, which called for certain taxes on real estate transactions to be used for conservation purchases. This could, for example, have been a way to implement the goals of the 2012 Bear Management Plan and establish meaningful connectivity corridors between our genetically isolated bear sub-populations. Naturally, the legislature has completely ignored the Constitution, and we will now be embarking upon another lengthy legal battle to try to force them to do what the Constitution requires. While the lawsuits drag on, of course, much damage is done – and much money is made by certain interested parties. It is hard to understate the level of cynicism on display here.

        Finally, Speak Up Wekiva’s lawsuit against the bear hunt, which is now in the discovery phase, argues, inter alia, that the FWC has violated its constitutional mandate to protect and conserve wildlife. The courts may ultimately agree, but how many bears will have been killed in that time?

        Florida is one of the most corrupt states in the Union. It needs a complete house-cleaning. But the United States has a very poor track record for lasting change from below. Even if some concessions are extracted from the ruling class (as in the New Deal, for example), there is always a counter-revolution.

  14. Jamie Archer

    Wow… I am so thankful I stumbled upon this report.  I work in the Altoona area and live in Ocala National Forest. It’s very quiet in the woods tonight. Usually by this time I hear the first set of dogs barking to let us know the first bear is on his way through the neighborhood. More would follow as the night went on. It has never been this quiet, and it was the same way last night. I could always tell the bears’ progress by the neighborhood dogs. I never put my garbage out until the morning of pickup day, and I lock my chickens up at night. One time I had a bear come over my fence and head for the chicken coop and he was treed by my dogs. I locked the dogs on the porch and chased him out of the tree with a gunshot out into a remote area above the trees where nothing could be hit. In short, I did everything I could to co-exist with them. The bears cut a pretty wide path around my place, but I always knew they were out there. I don’t think I will see or hear a bear in a very long time and it makes me incredibly sad.

    1. editor

      Thank you for sharing this. I stayed at the Altoona station throughout because these were my neighbors, too.

      First, we don’t know, and never will know, how many bears were really taken in that area. We only know how many were brought to the check station for tagging and sampling. What you are seeing (or not seeing) is a combination of reduced bear numbers and altered behavior. The latter effect will probably wear off in time, but how much time – I don’t know. The consensus of opinion at the check station, when the flow of victims slowed down around noon, was that the bears had figured out something was terribly wrong and were going to ground. They haven’t been hunted for 21 years. Many of them were sitting ducks.

      Dr. Eason (the FWC’s most senior bear biologist) has made some comments along the same lines, implying that hunting will modify bear behavior. But the science shows clearly that hunting does not reduce human-bear conflicts, so his assertions need to be subjected to close scrutiny. I would expect the FWC to start boasting about a reduced number of nuisance calls.

      I would be very interested to know if and when you see things return to normal. Please feel free to use the contact page on this site to let me know.

      1. Robert

        In NJ, baiting and killing of bears started up again in 2003, after more than 30 years of prior peaceful coexistence. I can tell you from direct experience that the damage has been permanent. Prior to 2003, I routinely came across bears in the highland forests. Many times they were so relaxed they hardly paid any attention to me. I would maintain a respectful distance and they would allow me to see their cubs or watch them forage for as long as I wanted. I have such fond memories of those times. But after 2003, it changed completely. I found it much harder to find the bears and had to hide myself to do it. And if they spotted or scented me, they would run away in absolute terror. Subsequent to 2003 NJ had some years when bear hunting was stopped by a sympathetic governor. But the bears retained their fear and unease. And now, with the bloated and disgraceful Chris Christy in the statehouse, there is a murderous bloodbath every year.

        The bears are the spirits of the forest. They live in complete harmony with creation. And they are being killed, wounded, terrorized, and orphaned by rapacious humans who are completely unworthy of life. These crimes cry out for justice.

        1. editor

          Thank you very much for that poignant comment.

          Bears are, as you say, naturally very gentle and can be remarkably trusting. The work of Dr. Lynn Rogers in Minnesota has shown this conclusively. I am truly sorry that your ability to experience this has been destroyed. You have some wonderful memories, and you understand what has been lost better than most people. As futile as it seems sometimes, please try to use that understanding to fight the darkness in your state.

  15. Antoinette Robinson

    Thank you to all the bear advocates that participated in documenting this very difficult event. Your work will help raise awareness and will lead to what needs to be done to prevent this from happening again. God bless you all.

  16. Sophie du Montca-rats

    While these families can go home together, the cubs will wait alone in the forest. Be proud of yourself hunters, no one else will it be. It’s unspeakable disgusting

    1. editor

      Your statement evinces a lack of understanding of the arguments being made in the article.

      Your other two comments have not been approved because they add even less to the discussion and border on the abusive. This site’s comment policy calls for respectful treatment of all participants.

  17. Don Peknik

     I am a realtor and sell homes, existing homes and condo’s in New Smyrna Beach FL. I’ve lived in this state since 1972 and have seen a lot of changes in the green profile, that is the amount of plain natural habitat that is disappearing daily. I have been making comments, albeit treading lightly, on the issue of human population, or over-population, and the fact that we are just eating and munching our way through every natural resource this state has to offer. And to be clear, this is not a Florida-specific problem, but an international one.  This “hunt” is a sad symptom of the mentality of our economic and political leadership. Its also purely avoiding the pink elephant n the middle of the room: our population and our encroachment on whats left of the natural habitat in this state.

    My question to this audience is: If an individual becomes the owner of enormous tracts of land simply because they can afford it financially, at what point does the use of that land or the preservation of that land become simply the decision of the owner and not the public at large? The land is where we live, part of our environment, part of this planet. So who is to say it just is ok to bulldoze, pave, build, and ultimately destroy hundreds or thousands of acres at a time? There is no “good” or sustainable way for humans to co-habitate with wildlife. In this world, it just does not happen. 

    1. editor

      Thank you for an excellent comment. You are no longer “treading lightly” when you start questioning the compatibility of private property with ecological integrity!

      The new Chairman of the FWC, Brian Yablonski, has published papers (which I referenced here) arguing that the best way to protect endangered species is for extremely wealthy individuals (of whom his predecessor, Richard Corbett, would be a good example) to provide these species a home on private plantations. Mr. Yablonski – the leader of a public agency – derides “government approaches” such as parks and conservation areas, and discounts to zero the interest of the public in controlling the natural world upon which we all depend.

      Even if that precious private land is not bulldozed, the fate of a species would potentially turn on the whims or fortunes of a few individuals. Should their heirs need to sell part of the property to pay estate tax, the home of that species could easily be disrupted. Of course, for an animal such as the black bear, it is inconceivable that even the largest private tract could ever suffice to house a genetically viable population, but this concern does not seem to be uppermost in the Chairman’s mind.

      The Native Americans believed that ownership of land was as absurd as ownership of the sky or the sun. Yet modern financial capitalism seeks to privatize every conceivable natural resource, and then profit from controlling it. Unless we return to the harmonious, non-exploitative philosophy of those earliest Americans, we are doomed to a dystopian future. One can only wonder what happened to the spirits of these men who would consider themselves wealthy in their islands of opulence while all around them has turned to dust.

  18. Keith whitlock

    Sad at every level. Why not capture and sterilize bears and other “problem” wildlife? That would keep populations down and would be far more humane. I would volunteer to help do this.

    1. editor

      Keith – The sterilization issue was essentially addressed in a previous response. Proposing it as a solution reinforces the FWC’s argument that we have too many bears. We don’t.

      “Problem” bears tend to be recidivists: they act the same way no matter where you put them. If humans would secure their trash and other attractants, they wouldn’t be “problem” bears any more and would be more likely to seek natural food sources that take a little more effort to find. It would help further, of course, if human land management left plenty of such food sources for bears, such as oak trees (which produce acorns) instead of non-native pines which produce little more than lumber for the land owner.

  19. Maureen Ellen McGill

    The world is shocked by this wholesale slaughter of innocent bears in Florida. It is now on the same level as Zimbabwe where wild animals have zero value. I will never set foot in Florida as a tourist again and I will encourage all family and friends to do the same.

  20. Chris

    There is yet another long term impact here. As with other slaughtered species, the remaining juveniles are left to learn “proper” behavior on their own. Why have there been so many elephant attacks of late? The fact that juvenile males have no mother figure to teach them. These young, traumatized bears will have witnessed murder in their forests. One in ten of the bears they knew have vanished. The stress, fear and loss of leadership can only result in bears who know no other way to cope. They will be seen as nuisance animals and murdered, just as their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Sad future for all remaining.

    1. editor

      Yes, Chris, absolutely right. I touched on this in my response to Lynn Topolansky, above, but a further comment is in order.

      We should assume that the FWC’s esteemed Dr. Thomas Eason is aware of this vicious cycle. If not, he should not be in his position. So I find it reasonable, not cynical, to conclude that the FWC fully expects precisely this kind of outcome, and hopes thereby to arm itself with the pretext to further “manage” the bear population.

  21. Melanie

    I read every word and there is not much left to say. I live in Orlando and if a black bear is seen they don’t try to capture it and bring back to where he went “off track from,” they kill him. We are taking so much land from them – where do they expect them to go? Yes a few are found roaming meighborhoods for food, but it’s not their fault, it’s ours. Men have huge ego’s and brag about their kill., and yes their children see it. I am a vegetarian and seeing a whopper or Arby’s, etc commercial is starting to make me sick. Why don’t we have a field trip with the FWC, Senators, older children and take them to the slaughterhouses so they see what is happening before the meat gets on their plate? Or show them the slaughtering of dogs in China because dog meat is so cheap? We are the animals and until people realize that, nothing drastic will change. We have wins, but then there are 20 more dead, electrocuted, eyes taken out, skinned alive – all for experiments. We need Billboards of your pictures and the other atrocities that are happening in our back yard. One day a child is going to say, “Mom, what is a grey wolf? Have you ever seen one? Or a Rhino or elephant or seals,etc. Thank you for your exposure of what happened, I’m so sorry you will live with the memories and stench forever. I hope the American people wake up and save our wildlife and the planet they live on. 

    1. editor

      Thank you for that comment. As I type this, it is exactly one week since these events unfolded, and the smell of death is coming back to me constantly today. But I would ask you, please, not to feel sorry for me, or for the scores of other independent monitors of the slaughter. For at the end of those two days, we got to go home to our families. These bears did not.

  22. Sarah and Sandy

    This so-called “hunt” was nothing but a money thing. Over 3000 permits sold to slaughter 320 bears.. many permits going out of state. ..This was a disaster from the get-go and solved nothing….the nuisance bears are in the populated areas and are still going to be in the populated areas as long as developers keep pushing them out – not in the deep woods where they peacefully thrive. We live in the forest and could sit on our porch in the early morning and watch the bears feed and the cubs roll and play but have not seen a bear since. The FWC want to have a hunt they need to go to the wetlands and swamps in south Florida and hunt the pythons and leave these beautiful creatures alone. May we not have another travesty like this – at least until they do a thorough research and a true count even if it takes another 3 to 5 years.

    1. editor

      Nick Wiley, the FWC’s Executive Director, has made it very clear that they always planned for the bear hunt to be an annual event. It will be fascinating to see how they, er, present the numbers due in 2016, because Dr. Eason has said that he thinks the bear population could be closer to 5,000. If they continue to define “sustainability” as a 20% overall mortality rate, the quota next time would be horrific. (Dr. Steven Stringham, who testified for Speak Up Wekiva in the emergency injunction hearing, stated that the hunt has just vitiated the population study that is underway, but his opinion will be flushed down the memory hole, along with all the taxpayer dollars that funded the research.) There are some rumblings about a different structure for the next hunt, to avoid the accusation that too many hunters have been unleashed at one time, leading to the bloodbath that took place in the Eastern Panhandle (where the quota of 40 was exceeded by noon on the first day, and exceeded by 280% in the end). The next hunt may involve a lottery system and/or a tag hunt (as used for alligators).

      I am sorry that you can no longer enjoy the bears’ company. Neither the State nor their favored “stakeholders” will be compensating you, or the bears, for your loss. The only way to stop this madness is to remind the State, by whatever means necessary, that wildlife is a public trust to be conserved for all the people, not just those who want to kill it or who find its existence incompatible with their 10-year business plans.

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