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CM151027-120510009 This past weekend the state of Florida held it’s first Bear Hunt in over 20 years. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is touting it a great success and are planning for the next massacre. Opponents are still trying to figure out how to stop it. Emotions were running high from both sides. I blew up my own Facebook page with the horrific images of dead Momma Bears and dead Cubs no bigger than Labradors. I felt sick all weekend.

The hunt was called off after two days. The FWC seemed surprised the hunters were so immediately successful at bagging the Bears. A quote I heard from a hunter on the news was, “He just stood there and let me shoot him.” Think about that for a moment. Why would he not run? Bears have been used to seeing humans these past 20 years. Not much “sport” in that.

Another quote from a different hunter was, “You’ve seen what’s been happening North of Orlando… the Bears have been chewing on dogs and chasing women!”

This was the excuse used to start this mess. Bears were attacking people along the Markham Woods Road corridor. It’s true that a handful of people and dogs have had bad encounters over the past couple years. People in danger from Bears still only make up 1% of the calls FWC takes regarding Bears. That 1% statistic has been solid yearly since 1999, according to the FWC website. I work daily in the neighborhoods up and down Markham Woods Road. I have personally had several close sightings of Bears in these neighborhoods. Know what happened? Absolutely nothing. We both went about our business. It infuriates me that yesterday, not two days after everyone was so upset our beautiful black Bears were killed, I still saw trash set out in rickety cans.

It doesn’t take a scientist to deduce the following:

1. Bears are in the neighborhoods because you built them in their woods.

2. Bears are in the neighborhoods because you put trash out they can easily access.

Yesterday when I took the above photo I was in an exclusive, gated neighborhood. This is high dollar real estate. I drove the main drag with homes on both sides. I drove from the front gate to the back. I counted TWO Bear-Proof trash cans! That, my friends, is shameful.

Are you outraged enough to finally get the proper trash cans needed to ensure not only YOUR safety but the safety of our Bears? Lead by example. It’s too late for the over 300 dead but maybe, just maybe, we can be responsible stewards for the ones remaining.
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Dear Florida Black Bear,

You need to understand you are under assault. Run as far and as fast as you can back into whatever little amount of woods you reach. You may find some safety there. I know it’s confusing. People beg you to come closer. They build huge homes on what used to be YOUR home. Generations of your family have roamed those same paths where today you find concrete and swimming pools. If you aren’t careful now, you will run straight into the path of an armed FWC officer. He’s out to get you. He wants to prove his point. They say the Florida Wildlife Commission is all about conservation. Killing SEVEN of you is certainly not very conservation-minded. And they’re not done. They’re setting traps using donuts and other delectable goodies. Don’t fall for it! There are mornings I’d be acting fairly aggressive over a donut, too, but they are going to kill YOU. The FWC is made up of macho yahoos claiming to be outdoorsmen, in other words, they are hunters. Please, please go far away.

You need to understand people are sloppy and lazy and that’s what has now put your very life on the line. I certainly don’t blame you for taking advantage of the easy meals residents put right under your nose. Bird seed, cracked corn and cat food is pretty tasty to a hungry bear right out of hibernation. And those big things on wheels at the end of driveways seem to be rolled out right for your pleasure – but they’re not. It’s easy pickings but it’s going to be the death of you. SEVEN of your brothers and sisters are already dead. Please, please go far away.

You have the ability to think, reason and make a decision. Most of the time you decide humans are not worth bothering. You could easily crush us and you decide not to. Instead you saunter on your merry way. Now there have been incidents lately where someone was injured and that’s not good, not good at all. Please tell all the other bears no matter what, run the other way instead of defending yourself against a perceived threat. When a mere human gets on the wrong side of scary, things go terribly bad. And YOU will pay with your life. Please, please go far away.

I have been a few steps away from you. I looked upon you with awe. You looked at me with innocence and we each went about our business. Me to walking dogs and you to foraging for food. That is what you do with the majority of your time. You forage for food. If we had not taken away your wilderness and replaced it with gated neighborhoods you would be kept busy with fruits, nuts, plants and insect larvae. Those are your natural dietary selections. I’m so sorry we’ve done this to you. I will do my best to help educate and bring awareness to your plight. There are many others like-minded who feel honored you walk among us. There are many others who know we can coexist if things are done the right way. Each time I see you I say a prayer for your safe journey. Please, please go far away.

Sincerely, 

Kathleen Prince

For Facts about Black Bears please check out http://bearwithus.org/understanding-bears.

To get involved go to Bears of Wekiva on Facebook.

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