Seminole County to FWC: No more bear hunts

Seminole County is sending a strong message to the state.  County commissioners on Tuesday voted to ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to re-instate a ban on bear hunting in Florida.   The vote was unanimous. 

Seminole County, west of Interstate 4 is Florida’s epicenter for human-bear encounters.   Over the last few years, neighborhoods in the Wekiva River basin have generated the most calls for bear complaints in all of Florida.  The state held a controversial statewide bear hunt last October to thin the bear population and hunters quickly claimed 304 bears. 

Now Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine and other leaders say no more hunts.  "We didn’t look real good in the eyes of the rest of the United States when we had that arbitrary bear hunt, in which in a day-and-a-half, they had already reached their quota."

County commissioners urged the FWC to reinstate a ban on bear hunting.  In a resolution, the county says, if there is a bear hunt this October, FWC should not include Seminole County in it. 

The county’s ordinance to eliminate food sources for bears in neighborhoods went into effect in February.  Constantine said there have been fewer problems between people and bears.  "Let’s see if we can do the education method.  Let’s see if we can control the bear population through these ordinances and by taking the attractants away," he said.

FWC sent FOX 35 a statement about Seminole County’s hunting ban request.  Part of it reads, “We are disappointed that the county commission made such a strong policy statement without a complete representation of the scientific facts and fair consideration of FWC’s considerable statewide experience with this important matter.”

"These methods that we’re using are the FWC’s, and they’re working, so let’s continue that before we go and have another bear hunt," added Constantine.

Earlier this month, Volusia County leaders passed a similar resolution to the Seminole County one.  Neither county has the authority to block a bear hunt.  FWC commissioners could decide during their June 22 meeting if they will hold a bear hunt this fall.