Issues of Interest

BLACK BEARS The U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Tennessee studied data collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2015 and estimated there are 4,030 bears in Florida, which is lower than the estimate of 4,350 originally reported in March. FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley says that the black bears have rebounded under protection, growing from just a few hundred bears statewide in the 1970s. Last October, 304 bears were killed during the state’s first bear hunt in 20 years. The agency did not authorize a bear hunt this year.

CITRUS UPDATE According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the citrus industry lost 4 percent of its grove lands over the past year, mostly due to the citrus greening disease. A ten month, $5.5 million incentive program by Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will give growers a chance to plant new groves.  Growers are eligible for 75 percent of the cost of new irrigation systems and 100 percent on engineering and design costs, with the total cost share capped at $250,000 per single grower or property owner.

On September 21st, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act which provides tax incentives for farmers who cannot afford to replace trees affected by citrus greening. The proposal, by Florida Congressmen Vern Buchanan (R) and Patrick Murphy (D), would allow farmers to utilize tax deductions even if they bring in investors, so long as the grower continues to own a major stake in the grove.

SNAILS Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam says that more than 164,000 giant African land snails (GALS) have been eliminated in Florida since the invasive snail was discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2011. GALS consume plaster and stucco to get the calcium needed to grow their shells. The snails also carry a parasite that can cause a type of meningitis in humans and animals. Over the last five years, the Department has detected and eliminated snails in 31 core areas, all located in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

SCREWWORM Screwworms have killed about 60 Key deer since July in the Florida Keys. The screwworm is a fly that lays its eggs in an open wound on an animal. The maggot then eats the animal alive. No human or livestock cases have been reported to date.

RED SNAPPER SEASON EXTENDED The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a seven-day extension of the red-snapper season in state waters off the Gulf of Mexico due to the poor weather conditions caused by Hurricane Hermine. In addition to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October, the season will include November 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th, 25th, 26th and 27th.

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