Update: Last week a Florida judge ruled against the bears, and allowed hunting to commence in 19 days. But while we lost this case, FWC's hunting rules were shown to have more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese -- so we're appealing the ruling in a last-ditch effort to save the bears. Click here to donate to the Black Bear Legal Fund, because it ain't over till it's over.
Last week was truly a black day for Florida's Black Bears. Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds III ruled in favor of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), dismissing the argument that their rules associated for hunting bears are arbitrary and capricious.1 The ruling clears the way for a week-long hunt set to commence at 8:00 a.m. October 24th.
Despite a valiant effort by our attorney Ralf Brookes and our friends Speak Up Wekiva, the judge concluded he did not have the legal authority to stop the hunt. However, the judge did determine the FWC could have shown better timing and science, and acknowledged many aspects of the rules are ambiguous and concerning.2
For instance, the judge seemed to agree that while every hunter is only allowed to kill one bear, there are no age restrictions on who can purchase a permit, nor any mechanism to determine if a bear was killed by a specific hunter. This opens the door to a number of troubling discrepancies, all of which could lead to too many bears being killed. So we're going to appeal Judge Reynolds' ruling. Will you donate (or donate again) in support of our black bear legal fund to keep this fight going?
Other troubling elements of the rules include the fact that FWC will not stop the hunt during the first two days, even if the 320 "harvest" limit is reached. Judge Reynolds questioned this aspect of the FWC plan and asked how they plan to stay in touch with hunters deep in the woods where cellular service is not at a premium.
In theory, FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley has the authority to suspend the hunt at any time. But the first two days of the hunt are during a weekend, and even if Mr. Wiley decided to suspend the hunt he would be required to correspond with the other FWC Commissioners prior to doing so. That would be very difficult, since some of the commissioners, and all of the hunters, will be essentially unreachable.3
Pending our appeal, the only two people who can stop this hunt are Gov. Rick Scott and Director Wiley. But both have indicated they have no plans to do so with Wiley stating, "I would not contemplate using an executive order in this manner to stop the hunt before it begins when this would be contrary to the action of our commission to authorize this hunt." And Scott has repeatedly supported for the FWC's cruel and unnecessary plan to hunt bears, despite widespread public opposition.4
The great Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over till it's over." In addition to our appeal, we're also laying plans for a network of volunteer Bear Hunt Monitors -- to keep an eye on the one-week hunt and make sure the rules are followed and nobody is killing bears illegally.* But the best solution is still to stop the hunt before it starts, and that's why this appeal is so important.
We're still in this, and I'm confident that now that the discrepancies of the rules have been revealed in court, we have a real shot. But we need your help: Click here to donate $25, $50 or whatever you can afford to the Florida Black Bear appeal, and help us stay in the game.
Anthony for Team Florida Bear
* PS - Do you live in Florida? We're also looking for volunteers to assist our friends at Speak Up Wekiva as a volunteer bear hunting monitors, in case the appeal fails. Please click here for more information.
1. Pittman, Craig. Judge Won't Halt Florida Bear Hunt. Tampa Bay Times. October 1, 2015.
2. Anthony Rogers-Wright, Black Day For Black Bears In Florida, Environmental Action Blog, October 2, 2015
3. Dunkelberger, Lloyd. FWC OKs 320 Bear Killings. Ocala Star Banner. September 3, 2015.
4. Pittman, Craig. Only Two People Can Stop The Bear Hunt - and One Of Them Is Gov. Rick Scott. Tampa Bay Times. October 1, 2015.