Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Instead of Hunt, Florida Bear-Proofs Its Trash

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Instead of Hunt, Florida Bear-Proofs Its Trash

Article excerpt

Wildlife officials in Florida have given up on plans for a second bear hunt in the fall and decided, at least for now, to search for other means to improve tension-filled ursine relations.

Almost from the moment they left the Endangered Species list, the Florida black bears have troubled the state's wildlife officials. Although bringing the population back from several hundred in the 1970s to an estimated 4,350 has been hailed as a conservation success, keeping the now-flourishing bear population from straying too close to humans has proved an equally fraught challenge.

"Bear conflicts are out there. They're real and they're growing," said Brian Yablonski, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner who argued unsuccessfully in favor of a 2016 bear hunt, according to the News-Press. "But that's a sign of robust health with our bear population. But unfortunately it gives us a complicated problem, and we're trying to solve it."

The nation's third most-populous state receives more than 6,000 complaints each year about bears straying too close to humans, compared to only hundreds of these complaints a decade ago.

Such problems, coming so soon after the black bears left the Endangered Species list in 2012, raises a question about how narrow the margin for Florida's bear population really is. The question echoes nationwide, as previously endangered animals re-emerge successfully from decades of conservation work.

"The same issue confronts urban areas across the country," as The Christian Science Monitor reported in April:

In 2012, one ecologist estimated that there were around 2,000 coyotes roaming the streets of Chicago. The expansion of human settlement and a corresponding rise in urban wildlife populations bring challenges for city and state officials, who are forced to make decisions about how to coexist, or not, with these animals. …

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