Animals

Eckerd students help treat black bear cubs at wildlife state park – News

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On this visit, a researcher from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) was working on a way to connect a radio transmitter to the three sleeping cubs while the ball was observing them. “My role was to maintain a safe level of sedation, have a health assessment, and collect blood samples for health analysis,” he says.

A quick word about the Florida black bear. Adult males weigh about 300 pounds, while females weigh about half the weight. They are reclusive, and will eat just about anything, and there are an estimated 4,000 of them in the state. Mothers usually give birth to two cubs that stay with them for more than a year. Black bears are not on the endangered species list, but Florida law makes it illegal to kill a person without a permit.

So… in 2015, the FWC authorized a bear hunt, a first in more than 20 years. Nearly 3,800 permits were sold, more than the estimated total number of bears at the time. After the two-day hunt ended, 304 bears were killed, mostly in the Panhandle and Ocala regions. The following year, in the face of growing public protest, the FWC voted to postpone bear hunting.

At least for now, the last planned wildlife rehabilitation session for the class in the park was on December 1. Paul says there may be more trips in the spring. That’s fine with students like Olivia Felicia, a senior animal studies student from Medford, New Jersey. During a visit last month, she conducted medical evaluations on the bears and helped identify them.

“Gaining the skills we learned and applying them to treating bears was really a great learning experience for everyone in the class,” says Olivia, who also works for a vet in Bradenton.

“Dr. Ball always says the best way to get to know animals is to get in with them. And when you do that, you realize that this is a world we share with them, and that animals need people to stand up for.”

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