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Veteran Wildlife Lawyer: Trying To Stop Florida Black Bear Hunt An Uphill Battle

Pat Gaines via Flickr

With Florida black bear hunting season scheduled to start next month, a conservation group is asking a judge to block it. But a veteran wildlife lawyer says the group’s chance of success is slim.

The upcoming bear hunt will be the state’s first in more than two decades. Last time a bear was killed legally was in the early ‘90s.

“It’s a very charismatic species, however you think about it, whether you support the hunt or not, and it causes passion in people,” says Preston Robertson. He was the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s lawyer back then and helped Florida shut down the hunt because the bears were a threatened species.

Today, the state is on the other side of the debate. And, as the Florida News Service reports, a group called Speak Up Wekiva is asking a Tallahassee judge to quickly review its case and issue an injunction to stop the hunt.

Robertson, who’s now Vice President of the nonprofit Florida Wildlife Federation, says he expects Speak Up Wekiva to have an uphill battle in court because the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gets its power from the state constitution, “which makes it very  difficult to oppose rules promulgated by the agency.”

The Wildlife Federation doesn’t have a position on the hunt. But Roberston says its members are concerned about how the state will enforce its target quota of 320 bears, with its being up to hunters to report their kills.

Barring the judge’s injunction, the hunt is scheduled to begin statewide on Oct. 24.

Photo: "Black Bear" by Pat Gaines used under Creative Commons license

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP