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Animal activists are coming out hard against the proposed bear hunt this year, which may ultimately result in some changes to how the FWC works.
This weekend, protests are scheduled across 28 cities in Florida on Saturday, June 18, says Adam Sugalski, campaign director for the group “Stop the Florida Bear Hunt.” In Orlando, the protest will be held at Lake Eola Park at 11 a.m.
Sugalski says although he’s a vegan, he’s not against hunting if a person is hunting for food. But Florida’s bear hunt wasn’t for necessity – it was trophy hunting, he says. And it’s not a Second Amendment issue, either.
“The NRA is acting like animal rights activists want to take away gun rights,” he says. “I have several guns for protection, and for them to come in and say that, most people think it’s ridiculous.”
Sugalski says another bear hunt is pretty much imminent, so activists plan to push the FWC to keep the number of licenses limited and prevent hunters from using hounds, which was not allowed last year.
“When the public’s trustees protect bears and the habitat that sustains them, they protect the entire trust; when they fail to protect bears, they place the entire trust in jeopardy,” Sugalski and his members wrote in a long letter to the FWC.
Commissioners on the FWC have also attracted the ire of activists. The seven-member board is made up of contractors, landowners, developers, lawyers, Republican donors and one cattle rancher.
Chuck O’Neal, director of Speak Up Wekiva, the organization that sued the FWC to stop the hunt, says he and others are working to propose two constitutional amendments for 2018 ballot. The first would make the FWC an elected body, not an appointed board, and the second would require a voter referendum to hunt any species currently or previously listed as a protected species.
“The public spends a great deal of money to bring these species back from the brink of extinction,” he says. “We elevate roadways, build higher fences and pay all this money, and then the FWC ends up hunting them again. It’s anti-democratic. If they do this hunt, it’s going to fuel their own demise.”
O’Neal says the FWC are in a “Tallahassee bubble” that doesn’t represent the rest of Florida.
“Every indication that we’ve gotten is that they’re going to set a hunt,” he says. “They’re a runaway commission of political appointees who do things contrary to the public’s will and sound science. That’s why they have to be stopped.”