Tag Archives: hunting

My Dream of the Last Black Bear on Hutchinson Island and the “One Sided War,” SLR/IRL

Hutchinson Island is located on the east side of the Indian River Lagoon–

Stuart News article 1976
“Captain Billy Pitchford” with the black bear he killed with a .303 Savage when it was raiding bee hives on Hutchison Island opposite Jensen Beach. This was the last bear killed on Hutchinson Island, 1926. (Stuart (Florida) News, 1969, archives, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow)
FWC camp Ocala, (JTL)
FWC Conservation and Youth Camp Ocala, (JTL)
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Lake Eaton

I find myself thinking of bears…recently I was in Silver Springs with my UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute class. We were staying at the Florida Wildlife Commissions’ Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp. That night, I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning—the springs under my mattress squeaked relentlessly through the dead-aired, dark, dusty cabin. I knew I was keeping my bunk-mates awake. It was 2:00AM. I decided to get up. Walking out the door into cool darkness the stars shone like diamonds in a velvet sky; Orion looked down on me as he has since my childhood.

Standing alone in glory of the night, I wondered if I would see a bear. After all, I was in “bear country”…There had been a lot of talk about bears and the controversies of hunting during our session. I imagined that if I did see a bear, I would do what they say to do. I would stand tall and slowly back up. I would not run.

Later that night I fell asleep in my car, and dreamt of bears. In my dream, I forgot the rules and I ran.  The bear did not chase me, but rather stood up like a human and summoned me to a large rock; I went to him and he told me a story… his story of being the last bear shot on Hutchinson Island in Martin County, 1926…

Black Bear public image.
Black Bear public image.
Stuart (Florida) News, 1926
Story: The Last Black Bear on Hutchison Island. Stuart (Florida) News, 1926. (Courtesy of historian, Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s archives)

The bear looked me straight in the eye and began speaking in a steady, low voice:

“For countless centuries there were black bears on Hutchinson Island…they co-existed with the Indians whose mounds are found there. We roamed the beaches on the long summer nights, digging up loggerhead turtle eggs. When the white settlers came a few sailed over from the mainland to put out bees on the island and we knocked over the hives to get the honey…

It was tough being a bear….white men and bears were enemies in a one-sided war. In 1926 I was shot by Captain Billy Pitchford. I was the last bear on Hutchinson Island…”

Suddenly I awoke. My car window was open;  I heard owls hooting close by and the wind whistling through the spanish moss. My bones ached and moisture coated everything. I rolled on my side thinking about my dream. Thinking about the last bear shot on Hutchinson Island and the old Stuart News article my mother had given me…

Bears, I though…

“A one-sided war….”

That was the message.

The Florida Wildlife Commission sanctioned  bear hunt, the first since 1994, will begin in two days on October 24th. There is nothing wrong with hunting, but a man of dignity should never take pride in winning a one-sided war.
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FWC FAQ: (http://m.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/plan-faqs/hunting-faqs/)
News 13:

MyNews 13 (http://mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2015/6/24/fwc_bear_hunt_vote.html)

UF NRLI: (http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu)

FWC, 2015.
FWC, 2015.
Image west coast newsletter, 2015.
Image west coast newsletter, 2015.