Conservationists protest Florida Wildlife Commission conference

A handful of protesters expressed their concerns this afternoon over the Florida Wildlife Commission's black bear conservation policies.

They gathered outside an FWC conference at the Best Western on 97th BLVD., holding up signs in protest.

They claim the FWC isn't doing enough to protect Florida black bears and the ecosystems that support them.

"Our natural lands are no longer truly natural. A lot of big machines are used to manage them for both consumptive and non-consumptive purposes, and we need to take much better care of the sensitive ground-cover out there that our wildlife depends on," says one protestor, Linda Duever.

FWC officials say they're happy to listen to all perspectives, but they believe their policies actually help the bears.

"Even with all the humans moving to Florida, all of the development in Florida, we have a booming bear population. So, it's recovered from a low of about 300 bears in the early 70s, to now over 4,000 bears statewide," says FWC's District Director of Habitat and Species Conservation.

Wildlife officials say over the past two years, they have raised more than a million dollars to outfit communities with bear-proof trash cans.

It's an effort they hope keeps the human footprint in bears' environments as small as possible.