Lions and Tigers and Bears….OH MY! And were off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz! Some might ridicule and say, this is no laughing matter, and I say……Well, then what is it? Because the serious nature, red tape, political BS surrounding the FL Black Bear Hunt is getting quite comical. What happened to preserve and protect? How about empathy and care? Call me Pollyanna, call me Crazy, but LOVE is the missing piece. When you can take the seriousness out of something and just LAUGH, it breaks down the walls of resistance and then Kindness and Compassion can shine through! LOVE is the result of Kindness and Compassion.

With recent reports of black bear encounters and sightings and the impending decision to hold another Florida Black Bear hunt in the fall of 2016 it is critical that WE WAKE UP. This has become such a political topic, and I HATE politics. Listening to Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) in recent public webinars discussing the situation of the Black Bear population, concerns about public safety, and whether another hunt will take place was disheartening. It was something planned, arranged, and delivered. Questions from concerned citizens were answered with a “vanilla” tone and a roundabout way so as not to back themselves into any corners. It was politically and professionally fueled, and I was not impressed. It was like being in a straitjacket with no bending or twisting allowed. Just answer us with strategically orchestrated replies that were sickly robotic. When I say “we” I speak for the bears and all other animals. I respectively speak for those defending the bears and ALL other wildlife. We must take a stand and stop the MADNESS. State regulators or the FWC and like establishments, manage and manipulate data for the benefit of the defending argument. I know because I used to work in a government job. Numbers and Data can be moved and influenced by whatever it is you are trying to illustrate. STOP! We know the Bears exist; we also know that 100’s of people move to Florida every day. What are we doing about that predicament? Where do you expect the wildlife to go when you keep taking the places they live to build more homes to house the people? Of course, we are bound to bump into one another. So let’s prepare for those encounters!

Everyone keeps talking about bear management. How about people management? Coming from an education position, I stand firm to say that education is powerful, effective, and key. While everyone runs around attempting to implement procedures, regulations, ordinances, and protections; we are missing the point. People and animals need to learn to co-exist. People are afraid of these wild animals because they don’t know anything about them, but what they read in the paper or hear on the news. Those recent encounters broadcast on the local news channels depicted these bears as if they were vicious, blood-seeking animals. HOW ABOUT EDUCATING!!! It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a network of dedicated individuals and respected parties to educate. Why not use your platform NEWS PEOPLE to educate. Screw the ratings, how about making a difference. Put some good out into the world and watch your ratings soar.

The picture of the FL Black Bear in this post is from 5/30/16. This bear was walking into the back yard of a dear friend (who will remain anonymous) in the Lake Wales Ridge area. He has lived with these bears for the past seven plus years. It’s a healthy respect for knowing they exist and not doing things that encourage their presence (i.e., leaving food out). A friendly non-harmful deterrent was used to scare this bear off. If this person can live with these bears, then so can others, and I firmly believe WE must teach people. When we know better, we can do better. When we are aware of the wildlife we live, then we can be better neighbors to them.

WHO is taking a proactive approach to educating? Like going into schools, holding classes at libraries, colleges, public venues to teach people about these animals and how to live with them? Classes, seminars, outreach events need to be held for FREE and not one time, but consistently and on a regular basis, to teach about living with all wildlife (bears, raccoon, birds, opossum, squirrels, alligators, snakes, etc.). Maybe this is mandatory as people register to be a resident of Florida. Hmmmmm, now that’s a concept, Living with Florida Wildlife Awareness class before you are granted residency or given a Florida Driver’s License. I know, sounds a bit much right? Hopefully you’re laughing, that is the point. But, if we want things to be different then we have to step outside of the box and think about new ways of approaching things. Let’s to be proactive for a change. The more people that keep moving to Florida the more encroached we become to these animals living spaces. PEOPLE need to learn to live with them not how to manage them for our convenient personal lifestyle needs.