Florida has seen an increase in bears venturing into human habitat recently. The close proximity can be very dangerous for many residents; one woman was mauled by a bear in her garage this month, which is the second incident of a Florida bear attack in just over five months. While there are many reasons behind the increase in bear sightings it is safe to say that a loss of habitat and natural food options sit at the top of the list. Officials in Florida are taking matters into their own hands by scouring the area for aggressive bears to kill; however, killing off large numbers of bears will disrupt the surrounding ecosystem.
After the Florida woman was attacked by a black bear in her garage, Florida officials searched for and killed 7 bears that appeared to be unafraid of humans. As with any wildlife killing scheme, many locals were outraged by the decision to kill bears in the area and urged officials to instead relocate bears in the future. Biologists in the area, in efforts to control the growing aggressive bear population, believe that killing the bears is the only viable option at the moment. This sentiment shows in past bear cull numbers: last year the total reached 25 bears slain in Florida.
Efforts to relocate problem bears have not been a success in Florida; there are no more wild places for the bears to comfortably reside without the need to scour for food in human habitats. This predicament turns into a vicious cycle because bears have no choice but to interfere with humans, and officials then have no choice but to control the bear population the only way they deem fit. Though, the bear killings will most likely severely disrupt the surrounding ecosystem due to evidence from past incidents of killing off apex predators, or animals at the top of the food chain.
Evidence of a failed ecosystem due to an apex predator die-off can be seen in the state of Kansas. Kansas used to have a healthy, balanced ecosystem comprised of wolves, the apex predator, and all prey under the wolves. The wolf population became a nuisance when more people inhabited the area to use the land for livestock and farming. The wolf population also became a threat to people with pets or small children, due to the growing human population’s encroachment on wolf habitat. In order to combat the threat, Kansas killed off the entire wolf population. Consequently, all prey animals, including deer, have become overpopulated and the amount of deer that are hit by cars annually has drastically increased. The ecosystem of Kansas is severely unbalanced.
A healthy ecosystem is extremely important for the success of humans. A thriving apex predator population is important for seed regeneration, pest control, healthy water and soil, along with many other crucial environmental happenings. Black bears are the apex predator of Florida; without a healthy black bear population the ecosystem becomes unbalanced. The health of Florida’s little remaining natural areas relies heavily on black bear contribution. Black bears maintain the health of nature for their own species, as well as for the health of all other species in the area.
Statistics show that if Florida officials do not find an alternate method of controlling black bear populations, the ecosystems that rely so heavily on their survival will suffer. This in turn will affect the human population of Florida in terms of water, natural flora and soil health, in the very least. Everything natural is connected in complicated ways that are easily disrupted; removing black bears from Florida completely by killing them all, which is a possibility with current trends, will irreversibly severely disrupt the ecosystem.
By Courtney Heitter