Feds asked to put Florida bears on endangered list

A Florida black bear
A Florida black bear

An environmental group petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect black bears in Florida as an endangered species due to development encroaching on their habitat, among other threats.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed the petition, which also is supported by the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States and the League of Women Voters.

The Tampa Bay Times reported the petition filed March 31 asserts that “without Endangered Species Act protection, the Florida black bear could once again find itself on the precipice of extinction.”

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In a press release by the Center for Biological Diversity, the organization’s Florida director, Jaclyn Lopez, said “years of out-of-control sprawl have pinched the Florida black bear between roads and homes, threatening its long-term survival, but the Endangered Species Act can provide a road map to make sure the bear has a place in Florida’s future.”

In 2012, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission removed Florida’s black bears from its list of imperiled wildlife. The commissioners last year reinstated a bear hunting season after a series of bear attacks on humans in 2013 and 2014.

Nick Wiley, executive director of the commission, shortened the hunting season to two days after hunters killed an unexpectedly large number of Florida bears.

Wiley told the Tampa Bay Times the state commission hasn’t decided whether to authorize another bear hunting season this year. [Tampa Bay Times]Mike Seemuth