Heartbroken People Honor The 295 Bears Killed In Just 2 Days
There was nothing they could have done to save the lives of 295 black bears, but they came together to remember them.
Floridians against a massive and largely inexplicable black bear hunt gathered in early November to memorialize the black bears killed late last month.
Florida's first bear hunt in 21 years, which was supposed to last for a week in late October, was cut short by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after just two days of hunting killed 295 bears across the state.
Black bear hunting had been banned in the state since 1994. This year, the hunt suddenly was allowed to start again so Florida can supposedly "manage" its bear population, but some people point out the state doesn't even have an up-to-date count of what exactly that population is: The latest statewide tally, according to one columnist, occurred 13 years ago.
There are only an estimated 3,000 black bears left in the state. Despite flailing numbers, 3,778 permits were sold to hunters who were eager to shoot a black bear, even though the quota was set at 320.
Hunters looking for an easy trophy came out in hordes, but many people held fast against the hunt. "Seventy-five percent of Floridians are against this," Senator Darren Soto told Central Florida Future. "It's not because they all don't like hunts. They don't like the way this went down. This was about people who just wanted to hunt and screw the science. These bears were endangered for a reason, there aren't a lot of them."
Those who showed up to honor the bears in person, at memorials across the state - largely in Lake Eola Park in Orlando but also popping up in other locations - carried signs and heartbreaking images of the dead. "Killing is not conservation," signs said. One woman sported a bag that simply said: "Your trophy had a family."
People hope that remembering the bear bloodbath will stop it from happening again. So far, it appears Florida's current hunting regulations would allow the hunt to happen again next year, unless something is done to prevent it.But people who gathered to remember the dead are hopeful that their demonstration will have future impact and prevent another hunt like this next year. "I came to this event for closure so that we can start moving on, and start being productive to protect and prevent another hunt," Shirlene Stuckey told Central Florida Future.
Those who gathered were joined in spirit by people decrying the slaughter on Facebook, posting tributes. "Thank you to all who went," one woman wrote. "Let us not be quiet. Let us all keep sharing and speaking about this atrocity and the people responsible for causing it. They think we will forget and lose interest. Don't ever let people forget the poor Florida Black Bears. There was no damn good reason for this."
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