Tag Archives: Hutchison Island black bears

No Bears to Hunt along the Indian River Lagoon, All Killed by 1930s, SLR/IRL

Mr Reginald Waters with black bears killed on Hutchinson Island, around 1930. (Photo credit Sandra Thurlow, Sewall’s Point,” A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast”/Reginald Waters Rice)
Mr Reginald Waters with black bears killed on Hutchinson Island, around 1930. (Photo credit Sandra Thurlow, Sewall’s Point,” A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast”/Reginald Waters Rice)
Photo from my mother: Bill Pitchford’s “last bear.”

A friend of mine, Mrs Mary Chapman, once described Stuart News reporter, Ed Killer, as “the only reporter in America who got her to read the sports page.” I feel the same way. Ed Killer’s past Sunday article entitled: “Bearing Down for the Bear Hunt,” was quite the read, and I have been thinking about it the past few days.

Bears….to think that they used to live right here in along the waters of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, and now there are none.

Today I thought I’d share a photo I have shared before, but it is certainly worth dusting off and bringing out of the archives again.

The above photos are from my mother’s book, “Sewall’s Point,” and shows Mr Reginald Waters with multiple black bears he killed on Hutchinson Island, a mother and two cubs,  around 1918.  The other is the “last bear shot on Hutchinson Island, 1926.” Historian, Alice Luckhardt, wrote a comprehensive piece on these black bears that once roamed our region. Here is an excerpt from a recent vignette:

“At one time, Florida black bears existed in fairly large numbers along the ocean coast between Jupiter and Fort Pierce, living in and among the mangroves and feeding on palmetto fruits and turtle eggs buried in the beach sand. However, as more people began settling the area, bears became unwelcome guests, and many were hunted and killed by early pioneers.

By the 1920s and early ’30s there were still a few wild black bears in the area. They found a tasty delight in honey and bee larvae from the numerous beehives in operation on Hutchinson Island at that time.

Jensen resident William Pitchford felt the only solution was to hunt down the bear that had been raiding his bee hives during the summer of 1931. Pitchford first thought to capture the bear using a steel trap he set out over several nights near the hives. The bear, however, was too smart to fall for that trap, avoiding it each night and still getting into the honey, destroying several hives.

Determined to end the bear’s raids, Pitchford, with the assistance of a neighbor, Vincent Wortham Sr., laid in wait one Saturday night, Aug. 8, 1931, with weapons in hand. As hoped, in the darkness of night, the bear appeared and the men turned on their flashlights. Pitchford immediately fired three times using his 303 Savage rifle, and Wortham fired his 32-20 Smith and Wesson revolver twice at the animal. The seriously wounded bear managed to scramble a short distance away before the two men later found him dead near the Pickerton farm. They managed to bring the 200-pound animal back to Jensen where photos documented the event, as this marked the last bear killed on Hutchinson Island.”

So, quite sad as far as I am concerned that we killed all the bears here. Let’s figure out how FWC, the Florida Wildlife Commission, the agency making the laws on bear hunting today “works.” —How do they fit into Florida government?  How were they able to determine it is OK to shoot bears this season? For one thing FWC is not “under the governor,” a situation many state agencies would “kill for.” Oh, no pun intended… 🙂

Also,  I must state that the structure of the agency is confusing like everything else in government.

There is “US Fish and Wildlife,” a federal agency, and then there is FWC, or the Florida Wildlife Commission, a state agency. One will also hear this same agency referred to as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Why  I am not sure. So Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) are the same thing. If anyone knows more about this please let me know….

In 2004 the agency, FWC. was  restructured by an act of the Florida Legislature:

This excerpt below explains:

“The FWC was established with a headquarter in Tallahassee, the state capital on July 1, 1999 after an amendment to the Florida Constitution approved in 1998. The FWC resulted from a merger between the former offices of the Marine Fisheries Commission, Division of Marine Resources and Division of Law Enforcement of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP}, and all of the employees and Commissioners of the former Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) serves as the environmental regulatory agency for the state, enforcing environmental legislation regarding air and water quality, for example. In 2004, the Florida Legislature approved a reorganization of the FWC that integrated parts of the Division of Wildlife, Division of Freshwater Fisheries, and the Florida Marine Research Institute to create the ‘Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’ (FWRI) in St. Petersburg, Florida.It has over 600 employees. As of 2014 FWC had over 2,000 full-time employees, maintained the FWRI, five regional offices, and 73 field offices across the state.”

FWC commission 2015
FWC commission 2015
Organizational Chart FWC 2015
Organizational Chart FWC 2015
Organizational Chart DEP
Organizational Chart DEP

Looking at the structure one can see that the commissioners are at the top of FWC chart and the “people” are over the governor for DEP chart….

Hmmmm?

If the bears had a seat at the table, I wonder where they would be?

Bear sitting at picnic table, a popular image from Facebook, 2014.
Black bear sitting at a picnic table, a popular image on Facebook, 2014.

____________________________________

Full note from my historian mother when she sent the “last bear” photo:

“Jacqui, Here is a photograph of Bill Pitchford’s “last bear” that Alice Luckhart wrote about. I have a file on the Waters family who lived in Walton on Indian River Drive. The photograph of Russell Waters with the mother bear and two cubs had “1918” written on it. I am glad Ed Killer’s article explain that hunters will not be allowed to kill a mother with cubs. Reginal Waters Rice who supplied the photograph said his uncle Russell felt very bad about killing “the three bears.” Mom

FFWCC or FWC: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Fish_and_Wildlife_Conservation_Commission)

FWC: (http://myfwc.com/about/)

DEP(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/mainpage/about/about_dep.htm)

CHART DEP (https://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/info/org/files/orgChart.pdf)

CHART FWC (http://myfwc.com/media/2992946/orgchart.pdf)

FWC Board photos: (http://myfwc.com/about/commission/)

US Fish and Wildlife: (US http://www.fws.gov)

Ed Killer’s TCpalm article (may need a subscription) (http://www.tcpalm.com/sports/columnists/ed-killer/ed-killer-bearing-down-for-the-bear-hunt_13102220)

 

 

Alice Luckhardt: (http://www.tcpalm.com/ugc/martin-county-ugc/historical-vignettes-when-bears-roamed-hutchinson-)

JTL former blog post on black bears: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/02/25/black-bears-of-hutchinson-island-our-wild-past/

“The Seminole Spirit of the Indian River Lagoon”

Coacoochee or Wildcat, by James Hutchinson 1976
Coacoochee or Wildcat, by James Hutchinson, 1976

Their stern faces stared at me for three years on the office walls of Stuart Middle School, and from the conservative backdrop of First National Bank and Trust Company of Stuart. My mom and dad told me stories at the dinner table about neighbor and artist James Hutchinson and his wife, Joan, living and painting these serious and  beautiful people on their reservation, not too far from where we lived. I drove on the school bus and graduated with Kevin Hutchinson, James and Joan’s son; I saw Kevin’s younger brother learn to ride a tricycle. The faces of the Seminole warriors and the faces of the Hutchinsons were an integral part of my childhood and we remain friends today.

The portrait above is of Coacoochee, or Wildcat. Coacoochee was possibly the greatest of Seminole warriors; he was not a formal chief. He rose up as a leader in a time of need during the Second Seminole War. His people loved him; to them, it is said, he had a great sense of humor, of all things–during the worst of times for his people, and yet he taught them how to fight back; how to survive.

Somewhere, I learned that in early times, the Seminoles used to camp and hunt along the North Fork of the St Lucie River making their way south across the Indian River Lagoon to Hutchinson Island to hunt black bears.  And once my mother, on the way to Ft Pierce, pulled over the car, and showed me how to find Native Indian pottery artifacts, right along the side of  the road, close to the mound by the railroad track.

Often, today, when I drive over the bridges, or along Indian River Drive, I imagine the Seminoles; I imagine that I can see them right there, fishing, cooking, and hunting or even their Ais ancestors. Perhaps a difficult life, but one in harmony with nature, unlike my own people…

Today, I have all four of Mr Hutchinson’s Seminole prints in my office staring at me from all walls.  And for me, their spirt is certainly alive.