Group asks judge for quick hearing to halt bear hunt

File photo
File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Seminole County-based conservation group Speak Up Wekiva asked a Leon County circuit judge Tuesday to issue a temporary injunction against the state's upcoming bear-hunting season and to speed up the review of a lawsuit seeking to block the hunt.

The season, approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is scheduled to begin Oct. 24 and last two to seven days. It is the first bear hunt in the state in more than two decades.

The lawsuit by Speak Up Wekiva and Chuck O'Neal, a Longwood resident and group member whose name appears on the lawsuit, was filed July 31.

The lawsuit contends the rules for the hunt go against a 1998 constitutional amendment that created the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as an independent body "to conduct management, preservation and conservation decision-making based upon sound science." The complaint also claims the bear hunt is not based on sound science and won't reduce growing conflicts between bears and humans.

In asking for the injunction, Speak Up Wekiva contended that with more than 2,000 bear-hunt permits already issued, and an Oct. 23 deadline to get permits, "there is a high likelihood that the number of bears killed could exceed" the state target of 320. The commission has dismissed such claims.

The lawsuit has support from the Sierra Club, the Massachusetts-based Environmental Action, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Center for Biological Diversity.