The Humane Society of the United States on Monday delivered more than 90,000 names of people who, the group says, want Gov. Rick Scott to halt anticipated approval of the state's first bear hunt in more than two decades.
Scott, however, is deferring to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the proposed hunt, which has the backing of the powerful National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.
Laura Bevan, the Humane Society's southern regional director, said Monday opponents also intend to address the commission before a final vote on the issue during a meeting Wednesday in Sarasota. But she couldn't say if the group might take legal action.
"This is the battle, not the war, we're going to keep opposing this," Bevan said. "When it starts, every hunter that paid their $100 for in-state (permits) --- or $300 for out-of-state --- is going to flood into the woods of Florida and kill bears."
Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley, in a release Monday, said reviving the hunt is a way to manage the bear population rather than a response to "recent bear attacks and escalating human-bear conflicts."
Wiley wrote, "We have in past years invested and continue today to invest much staff time and resources in working with communities to help people understand what they can do to reduce or avoid bear conflicts, primarily by securing garbage and removing food attractants."
The NRA and Unified Sportsmen, in backing the first bear hunt in Florida since the state closed the hunting season statewide in 1994, pointed to concerns with the "explosion in the bear population and the growing danger to human life."
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer wrote to commission members on June 10, saying, "Hunting is a management tool that FWC had used successfully in the past and continues to be an effective means to control wildlife populations that endanger the public."