Florida Holding Public Meetings For Bear Plan

Florida Fish and Wildlife, Bear Hunting Magazine

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants public and local government input on a draft plan that will ensure a sustainable and socially acceptable Florida black bear population throughout the state.

The FWC will hold public meetings to gather input on the plan in several locations around the state. The first meeting is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. in Apalachicola City Hall. Other meeting dates will be announced as arrangements are finalized.

"The plan proposes a framework to manage bears at the local level," said Dave Telesco, the FWC's bear management coordinator. "This includes conserving appropriate amounts of bear habitat, stabilizing the level of complaints about bears, and securing adequate funding to implement the plan.

FWC staff drafted the Bear Management Plan with assistance from a technical advisory group that included representatives from environmental, hunting and government organizations.

The Florida black bear is a state-threatened species whose populations are expanding in some areas while still quite restricted in others. Because of this variability, the plan proposes to create several Bear Management Units, which will consider the specific challenges and characteristics of the different geographical locations.

The plan sets up broad objectives under which each Bear Management Unit would operate. Within those units, local stakeholder groups will work with the FWC to set management objectives and standards for resolving human-bear conflicts. If the plan is accepted, the next stage would be to seek out stakeholders to participate in advisory groups within each Bear Management Unit. At the meetings, the FWC will give a brief presentation outlining the plan objectives and answer questions from attendees. Anyone interested in making statements about the plan at the meeting will be able to do so verbally or through written comment cards.

"We encourage the public and local governments to help us improve this draft and develop the final plan," Telesco said. "Feedback is essential to make this plan effective."

The draft plan is available online for public review and comment through Oct. 1. To see the draft plan, or more information on Florida black bears, go to Florida Bear Information.

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