In Florida, we love our critters. We love to protect them. Or we love to kill them. Depends on the critter.
Take, for instance, black bears.
Florida bear populations in the 1970s hovered in the 300 to 500 range. So we protected them. They rebounded.
New estimates of black bear populations in Florida show the statewide population is now 4,350 adult bears.
They did so well, in fact, we killed them.
OK, not all of them. Just 298 bears during a highly controversial, highly regulated hunt in 2015.
The state opted against hunts in 2016 and ruled them out for this year and 2018.
The debate isn't over by a long shot. Some say bears are so bountiful, we must hunt them for safety reasons. (We live in Bear Country because of the number of human-bear encounters). Others question the state's population numbers and they say killing the bears is cruel and unnecessary.
We also have a love-hate relationship with pythons.
We love them as pets. Until they get too big. Then we release them into the wild. Florida provides an ideal environment. So the predator exploded.
The state has authorized two hunts so far to thin the population.
When animals die in captivity, it becomes big news.
Animal activists are calling on SeaWorld to release the full necropsy for Tilikum. The orca - best know for a fatal attack on a trainer - died in January from a bacterial pneumonia. Activists want more details.
SeaWorld said it's not obligated to do that.
Contrast that to the reaction from the South Florida Museum in Bradenton to the death of Snooty, the world’s oldest-known manatee, on July 23.
The 69-year-old sea cow's death was a preventable accident, the museum said recently when releasing an investigation into his death.
"Snooty died when an access panel blocking an underwater plumbing area in his habitat came off at some point on the night of July 22 or the morning of July 23 and that Snooty swam into the opening, was unable to get out and drowned," the museum said in a news release Aug. 31.
The museum detailed what went wrong and outlined the changes it made to ensure it won't happen again.
The response is a fascinating exercise in transparency and underscored the community's emotional connection to Snooty.
The museum is offering free admission Sept. 10 for those who wish to pay tribute to the manatee.