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Wildlife conservationists says it’s too soon to hunt bears

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Human-black bear interaction is on the rise in parts of Florida, including Seminole County. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Hazing, harassing, and hunting.

Those are the techniques Florida wildlife officials are considering to tame the bear population and prevent attacks on residents in mostly suburban areas.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says it will allow residents to use slingshots and paintball guns to scare bears away. It’s prepared to train local law enforcement to be a part of a bear response team that would shoot more aggressive bears with non-lethal ammunition. Plus, it’s considering allowing a week-long hunting season in October.

John Swingle lives on three-quarters of an acre of fenced-in land in the Ocala National Forest. He says officials should wait until they have counted the bears before allowing hunting. He believes the best way to control the bears is for residents to control their trash.

“Our garbage cans are a buffet lunch for them, so if they can get food there instead of going out and chasing something in the forest, they will. It’s their nature,” he says.

Laurie Macdonald, Florida Director of Defenders of Wildlife, says homeowners associations should require residents to use bear-resistant dumpsters in areas where there are bears.

“If they’re in their habitat, they should require that people have bear-proof trash barrels. If you were fortunate enough to have a swimming pool, you’d have to put a fence around it, and if you have a trash barrel that you’re leaving out, you better put a fence around it.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to work with waste management companies on techniques for securing trash. It expects to have guidelines for bear control in place by April.

The black bear was removed from the state’s list of animals at risk of extinction three years ago and wildlife officials do not currently have updated population numbers.

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About Renata Sago

Renata Sago