REPORT: Lawmakers Sending Bill to DeSantis Making it Easier to Shoot Bears in Self-Defense

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[Photo Credit: By Cephas - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20017968]

Addressing concerns regarding bears in Northwest Florida, the state House approved a bill on Thursday that strengthens self-defense claims for individuals who harm bears on their property.

The House voted 83-28 on Thursday to approve the bill (HB 87), which critics argue will lead to more deaths of previously endangered bears.

The measure was approved by the Senate on Feb. 21 and is now awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval. Senators revised a previous House bill to clarify that individuals who attract bears with food or other methods, such as training dogs to hunt bears, would not be eligible for self-defense protections.

The change was accepted by the House on Thursday prior to the bill being passed.

According to House sponsor Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, state law already forbids enticing bears with treats like “doughnuts or honey.”

Hunters who kill bears must inform the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission within 24 hours and prove they did not purposely put themselves or their pets in dangerous situations that led to the bear’s death.

Furthermore, individuals would be prohibited from owning or selling bear carcasses following the incidents.

Shoaf tried to promote the proposal in previous years without success. However, the matter gained visibility in September when Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith expressed concerns about the bear population overwhelming his rural community.

Shoaf and the sponsor of the Senate bill, Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, both represent extensive rural districts that encompass Franklin County.

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