Hunters and environmentalists are battled it out again Wednesday morning over whether Floridians will be able to bare arms for a bear hunt this year.
The Florida Fish and Wild Life Conservation Commission (FWC) is trying to balance science and passion while they prepare to make a decision.
A sea of blaze orange occupied most of the seats in the room.
83 people came to testify on a possible 2017 bear hunting season.
Commissioners said it’s more than they’ve ever seen on any one issue.
“The is absolutely no reason going forward why you could not vote for support or implement a hunt,” said one hunter named Mike who testified to the commission.
The hunters said studies conducted by the FWC support a bear hunt this year.
“Eventually this will return and eventually the hunt will go into place, you know the science is there for it,“ said Chuck Echenique, a hunting activist from Tampa.
Opponents came out in mass too.
They say it’s too soon for a bear hunt despite the population growing to over 4,000.
“No one needs a bear rug or a bear to survive. No one, you know I have hunter friends and their take on bear meat is that it’s not very good,” said Adam Sugalski with One Protest.
Statistics gathered by the FWC suggest most Floridians support conservation hunting.
Although, 43% are opposed to a bear hunting specifically.
Commissioners noted despite a healthy population of bears in the state, public opinion still factors in to whether or not there will be a hunt.
“Although we believe hunting is a good tool and a useful tool and necessary, we still believe we need more time to work on this issue,” said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley.
Hunters said in the end, it’s the bears that will pay the price.
“You let it overpopulate, get to the point that we were talking about a while ago of saturation, you’re going to lose off a lot,” said hunter James Mew, who testified at the council.
The FWC voted 4-3 to kill the idea of a hunt in 2017.
Along with bear numbers rising, reports of people encountering bears are down from last year.