The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a Seminole County organization seeking to block the state’s upcoming bear-hunting season. The request, filed Tuesday as part of the state’s response to the lawsuit, came as Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds III is set Thursday to hear the challenge from the group Speak Up Wekiva.
The bear-hunting season is scheduled to begin Oct. 24 and last two to seven days. It is the first bear hunt in the state in more than two decades. The state agency’s goal is to reduce the bear population in Florida by 320. More than 2,200 bear-hunting permits have been purchased.
The lawsuit contends the rules for the hunt go against a 1998 voter-approved constitutional amendment that created the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as an independent body “to conduct management, preservation and conservation decision-making based upon sound science.” The complaint also claims the bear hunt is not based upon sound science, won’t reduce growing conflicts between bears and humans, and that by allowing an unlimited number of permits will result in more bears being killed than projected by the state.
The state agency, in requesting the dismissal, argues that under the Florida Constitution “the commission is vested with exclusive legislative authority to adopt reasonable rules to regulate and manage wild animal life in Florida.” The state also describes as “speculation and sensationalism” Speak Up Wekiva’s contention that the “harvest” goal will be exceeded.
“Plaintiffs crudely extrapolate that number of permits sold into a rough and factually baseless guesstimate on how the number sold surely must lead to a number of bear deaths during the first two days of the hunt that exceeds the 320 bear harvest objective,” the state response said Representatives of the state agency have previously said the rules for the hunt, including permitting, are based on experience in other states that have shown a “relatively low” success rate for hunters.