ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - An unexpected guest spoke passionately about ending black bear hunts in Florida at Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting.
Megan Sorbo, of Orlando, is 10 years old and said her love for the Everglades drives her passion to save Florida's black bears from hunters.
Megan came to the meeting prepared - armed with n impassioned speech and a pink step-stool to help her reach the podium in front of commissioners.
"I am here to speak on behalf of Florida black bears," Megan began. "Using a claim of scientific calculations, the FWC decided on a kill quota of 320 bears total for the state."
Megan said the "most sickening part" of last year's hunt was there were more hunting licenses issued than the estimated number of bears in the state.
"Can you imagine having the size of your home and yard reduced by over 80-percent," Megan asked. "And then having people wanting to come into your now small home to hunt you while you were doing nothing wrong?"
She finished by asking the commission to adopt a resolution, banning black bear hunting in Hillsborough County.
"We must work to protect and not kill our bears left in Florida," Megan said.
At the end of her speech, Megan apologized to commissioners for any confusion her presence may have caused because she was not originally on the meeting's agenda.
Megan stepped down from her stool and began to walk back to her seat when Commissioner Les Miller, Jr. called Megan back to the podium.
"Excuse me. Megan? Megan? Please come back... Put your stool down," Miller said.
He and other commissioners proceeded to praise Megan for her courage and ability to tackle a tough issue at such a young age.
"You tackled a tough issue, and you did it very well," Miller told Megan. "You need to be commended. A lot of older folks don't get involved in the process, and you're at the age of 10 - are already involved in the process - and we ask you to please keep it up. It's an important issue to you, and it's important to us."
Commissioner Sandra Murman added, "we need to capture this and send it to our legislators in Tallahassee and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. That is a remarkable statement from such a young person and I congratulate you."
Megan's brother, Trevor followed her, adding the hunt was said to be an effort to keep bears out of neighborhoods and highly populated areas. However, Trevor said hunters went deep into the woods during the hunt to find and kill bears, contrasting the assumption the animals threatened populated areas.
"Unfortunately, the idea of a bear hunt is completely debunked because the hunters all went out into the deep woods not where there's neighborhoods so they weren't even killing the bears that were supposedly the problem: the bear hunt was incredibly poorly managed," Trevor Sorbo explained.
Trevor said human interactions with bears actually went up after the hunt due to mothers of cubs being killed, driving them into urban areas after their lives were disrupted.
Finally, Trevor said the FWC's hunt faced some ethical issues regarding who profits from the hunt of black bears.
"One member of the commission personally makes $5,000 per person, per day, selling permits on their land to come hunt for the bear. There's extreme ethical issues here, and they have the agenda of letting their own selves go hunting as well as making $5,000 per person per day," Trevor explained.
"I don't know about you guys, but it really take me a long time to make $5,000, so I think that's an ethical issue that should've been addressed."
Trevor ended by asking, the same as his sister, for a resolution banning the hunt of black bears in Hillsborough County.
Commissioner Miller asked Trevor if his parents were at the meeting, to which Trevor said his mother was present. Miller addressed Megan and Trevor's mother, telling them, "you have a lot to be proud of."
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