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First Bear Season In More Than 20 Years Opens Amid Protests

One day before the first legal bear hunt in 21 years, Stop the Bear Hunt rallies were scheduled across the state in cities including Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Melbourne and Gainesville.

About 30 protesters gathered at the intersection of University Avenue and Main Street in Gainesville to speak out against the hunt.

Jeannette Carlisle came to the rally as a part of her ongoing efforts for the cause.

“I’ve signed every petition. I’ve called every number to call,” she said.

Carlisle is a sixth-generation Floridian and comes from a family of hunters. Her grandfather once killed a black bear for food, she said.

“He said he would never kill another bear, that it was like killing a human,” she said.

Carlisle grew up near the Everglades and remembers roaming miles through the forest as a child.

“If we saw a bear, it would run away,” she said. “The only time we weren’t allowed in the forest was during hunting season.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) approved the bear hunt in June. Hunting will be allowed in four out of seven bear management units (BMUs) throughout the state.

Bruce Morgan also participated in the rally. He is a field naturalist who encountered seven bears in the state this year.

“I am a hunter, and I’m not an animal rights person,” he said. “I’m here to say there’s no biological justification for this hunt.”

The maximum quota for the hunt is 320 bears. The black bear population is approximately 3,000 in the state, according to the FWC.

Carol Glavin, a rally participant, said, “I’m a hippie from the 60s and I haven’t got out on the street about anything in a long time, but I feel strongly about this.”

Glavin said she’s most opposed to the circumstances of the hunt.

“People are not hungry and needing to kill bears for food,” she said. “It’s strictly trophy hunting.”

According to FWC rules, the use of bait or feed is not allowed during the hunt. Bears may not be killed if they are less than 100 yards from a game feeding station.

Another participant, Major Jarman, said he attended the event because he’d been around bears most of his life and felt that it was wrong to hunt them.

“When I was younger I lived near the St. Johns River, and we would see the same families of bears come through there and watch them grow up from cubs to full-sized adults,” he said.

He recalled bear cubs leading blind adult bears around to find food, as well as bears lying side-by-side with domestic animals from his community.

“They were more scared of humans than anything,” he said. “They would run. They weren’t in attack mode.”

Caitlin is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.