Bears Win!

imageJune 23, 2016

Yesterday I spent 9 hours witnessing a public hearing held in Eastpoint, regarding a second hunt of Florida black bears.

While it was in many ways a very anxious day for me, I was absorbed and impressed with the speakers (I was Speaker # 66 and there were several dozen more behind me). I didn’t anticipate our collective courage and brilliance.

When I first made a pitch to this Commission, in 1984, regarding a nongame wildlife program for Florida, it was a very different place.  Almost everyone in the audience was a hunter; almost all were male.  If you were concerned about conservation of habitat, you largely avoided the FWC, and took your concerns instead to the DEP and the Department of Community Affairs (which was, you may remember, replaced by Governor Scott immediately after his first election, with the Department of Economic Opportunity).

So what a joy to wake up this morning and hear that the Commissioners had voted 4-3 in favor of postponing a hunt for 2016, AGAINST the recommendation of their own staff!


Speakers of all ages addressed the FWC Commissioners.

Friends, don’t fail to advocate for what you think is important. We never know when our voice will help turn the tide.

What follows is the statement I delivered yesterday. I encourage you to look around the internet for others who spoke.  They were amazing.




June 22, 2016      Statement to the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission

Good afternoon, Commissioners:

My name is Susan Cerulean. I live in Tallahassee and I am a conservation advocate and a writer. My first book was published when I was employed as a biologist with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in 1994. That book, the Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide, sold more copies than any other state viewing guide. People in Florida love wildlife. The speakers you have heard today, even those who are pro-hunting bears, all express a love of seeing wildlife, and simply knowing it exists in our state, as well.  This we hold in common. I appreciated the inclusive prayer offered by Tom Champeau this morning. I speak to you now in that spirit.

Linda Hall, great community artist, bearing our pain.

Linda Hall helped create a ritual to bear our pain after the 2015 bear hunt. Bear Requiem held in Tallahassee.

Tom reminded us that all of our hearts are troubled by the senseless outbreaks of violence occurring in so many places in Florida, and all over our beautiful planet. In the same sense, I believe it is the violence and brutality of hunting bears that incites thegrief and fury of everyone who opposes it.  And it is unthinkable to those of us who are concerned about the immorality of sanctioned killing to realize that overwhelming public opposition and protest, along with science and data that refute the efficacy of recreational hunting in controlling human-bear conflict, was not enough to change the course of FWC’s 2015 hunt, and may well not stop a hunt in 2016 either.

I ask you to consider the question raised by your chief bear scientist Dr. Thomas Eason, in his presentation this morning:

How can we learn to live with bears, again?

I know Dr. Eason meant this in the longest possible timeframe.  He reminded us that prior to pre-Columbian invasion of this continent, every kind of native wildlife was abundant. Human pressures, both through habitat destruction and hunting nearly annihilated bears in Florida over the last few centuries.  Only recently have they rebounded.

I hope you will consider the largest possible perspective in your deliberations today, for that is your job as wildlife commissioners.

Mother and cub in coastal scrub. Photo by Jon Johnson

Mother and cub in coastal scrub. Photo by Jon Johnson

Bears and humans have lived together on this planet for hundreds of centuries. At times, humans have driven a great subspecies of bear to extinction.  Oftentimes, we have worshipped them.  Festivals and rituals honoring the bear have been widely distributed in virtually every country of Europe, Asia and the Americas.  “The flesh  and skin of the bear are not part of the ordinary needs of people,” wrote the cultural anthropologist Paul Shepard. “So the bear has been almost wholly symbolic in human ceremony and imagination…. When ritual evaporates or is forgotten, what remains appears to be brutish or savage.”

That is where we stand today, if you go forward with a second bear hunt.

Sanctioning the killing of black bears in Florida for sport and trophy is brutish and savage in the eyes and hearts of millions of Floridians.

Floridians believe not just sport hunting, but hunting as a response to concerns about bears becoming “nuisances” by foraging in open dumpsters and garbage cans, birdfeeders, and coolers, are cruel and brutal. The death of 325 bears and the agony of their cubs did not, in 2015, and is not, in the future, expected to reduce human-bear conflicts.

imageBy every measure—in public meetings, numbers of letters to the agency head and the governor, social media, and reliable public opinion polls—by newspaper editorials, by county resolution—in all the ways citizens speak to their government—they have made their wishes clear.

What your scientists are not—and perhaps cannot—address in their recommendations to you, besides that bears are a vital native species of great ecological concern, is that these magnificent creatures are sentient beings with a purpose for being here on Earth. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.

I ask you, Commissioners, to consider the language you are hearing today from people who have travelled from all over the state. From your scientists, and their colleague from Maine, and their blue ribbon panel, we hear words that distance and measure, such as:

Harvest. Sustainable populations. Bear management units. Maximum yield. Scientific necessity.

Hunt opponents choose different words:

Kindness. Suffering. Lactating mothers and their cubs. Compassion. Co-existence. Ethical relationships.

If you vote in favor of a 2016 hunt, all over the world, people once again—rightfully–view Florida politics and the bear management program in particular, as gravely off course. Not because of your science—but because of the inherently violent nature of hunting Florida black bears.

Photo by Jon Johnson

Photo by Jon Johnson

I ask you to choose Option 4: No more bear hunting ever again in Florida.



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Bears Win! — 20 Comments

  1. Thanks You Susan for all your continued efforts on behalf of bears and all sentient beings. Your writings are well received and touch the hearts and minds of many people.

  2. Thank you, Susan, for speaking so eloquently for so many of us who could not be there. Thank goodness, a reprieve – for now.

  3. Thanks for speaking up Susan and everybody else who did likewise. Your words were eloquent as usual. It’s nice to have this victory for a change.

  4. Hello Susan, thank you for always being such a articulate and soulful advocate for Florida’s wildlife. It’s hard to belive that it’s been 18 years since the final watchable wildlife conference! The relationships I forged during that time when we were working to create a statewide ecotourism marketing campaign based on education and interpretation still sustains me today. Very best wishes to you and your family.

  5. Thank you Sue for speaking up for our bears, so eloquently, honestly and passionately. Hooray! Your voice made a difference! Our bears can live in peace for at least a year!

  6. Thank you for your perseverance and courage, Susan, as well as your compassion for the Bears. Congratulations!

  7. Although I am now working in Montana against the proposed trophy hunting of grizzly bears once they lose their protection under the Endangered Species Act (which unfortunately seems inevitable because their numbers have increased), my heart is also with the Florida Black Bear. Thanks so much for your activism on their behave. Bears everywhere win when citizens speak out for them!

  8. So GRATEFUL TO YOU! DEPTH of purposeful deliberation – one with you! Thanks!

  9. This is excellent. I applaud you. I also thank you for inspiring me to find my own route to advocacy: “Friends, don’t fail to advocate for what you think is important. We never know when our voice will help turn the tide.”