Sheriff slams FWC, involving Ron DeSantis in bear debacle

Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 10.00.38 AM
He's got the state's attention now.

A Sheriff is tired of responding to bear problems, so much so that he’s brought the issue to Gov. Ron DeSantis attention in a letter that includes criticism of an executive agency tasked with controlling Florida wildlife. 

After responding to 43 bear incidents this year, Franklin County Sheriff A.J. “Tony” Smith recently authored a letter to DeSantis to voice his “strongest objection to the mismanagement and incident response” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The letter follows media coverage of a Facebook video in which Smith complained of a rampant bear problem in his relatively rural jurisdiction. 

Smith told Florida Politics on Monday that DeSantis’ Office reviewed the letter, reached out and agreed to help curb the problem.

Smith, a Republican, spent a third of the letter sharply criticizing FWC, an executive agency with the stated mission of managing wildlife and resources. He attacked the statewide bear management plan, which he described as volumes of education and outreach components that “fail miserably with practical citizen well-being, public safety, and best practice response management.” 

The Sheriff also suggested there’s a fundamental flaw in the bear-management plan: it was written by “subject matter policy experts” who “all have the same ideology, not for the practical use of citizens.” He’s been more specific in videos posted to Facebook, which put the blame on the biologists employed by FWC.

The letter is extraordinary because it makes public an issue that FWC and DeSantis would no doubt have preferred to handle behind closed doors. The twice-elected Governor has either hand-picked or reappointed all seven FWC Commissioners currently in office. The Commissioners brought in a new Executive Director in May. 

But the public letter produced quick results. Smith will meet Thursday with a regional executive to discuss the matter. 

“There’s been a lot of talk about the bears in Franklin County,” Smith said on Facebook. “I guess I stirred it up and I don’t apologize for that because I like to think that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

In a statement provided to Florida Politics, the FWC said it continues to be active in Franklin County.

“FWC staff are working closely with the community and local officials on solutions to help them address any human/bear conflicts and will continue to be a resource for assistance,” reads the statement.

The agency also added that bears become more active in the fall, where they “start consuming more calories to pack on fat reserves for the winter.” 

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].


  • Earl Pitts "New Earl" American

    September 25, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    Wakulla County too suffers from the Human Bear problem. Those Dook 4 Brains “Serria Club” Wackos have Republican lawmakers kissing their _utts so much in Florida that there are only 3 or 4 people left in Florida’s Capitol with the required knowledge to end the dangerous human-bear problem almost overnight.
    Y’all are gonna wait until multiple citizens are killed by bears before y’all impliment the almost overnight fix to the problem and once again allow bears and people to safely co-exist here in Florida.
    *Audiance member chimes in: “OK Earl enough already give up the sweet sweet information on how to fix it “Almost Overnight”*
    OK Florida here it is:
    Regardless of the season, allthough it is Fall the traditiomal hunting season, open up as much land as possable to “Bear Hunting With Dogs”.
    No not just “Bear Hunting” it must be “Bear Hunting With Dogs”. Be sure to let the hunters into areas near human populated areas for the most effect because that is where the problem is.
    Bears are intelegant and will soon learn to avoid human and dog contact. Oh and before I go one more thing. Loosen up on any laws or regulations hindering our citizens from killing “nuscance bears”. If a home owner/renter deems a bear to be a nuscance …. Boom …. thats it …. dead bear …. no questions asked.
    There is pleanty of free range bear habitat in North Florida’s National and State Forests PLUS Management Areas for the Bears.
    Only problem?
    Yeah we got an “Only Problem” Lawmakers in Florida dont have the intestinal fortitude to tell The Serria Club to STFU.
    The solution, the cure, by The Earl Pitts American
    *again we MUST use Dogs in the hunt as it trains bears to avoid a common human pet The Barking Dog*

    • Earl Pitts is a Pedophile

      September 26, 2023 at 4:25 pm

      Put a loaded gun in your mouth and pull the trigger.

  • My Take

    September 25, 2023 at 6:12 pm

    Franklin County vs the bears?
    I’m probably for the bears.

  • Rick Whitaker

    September 25, 2023 at 8:03 pm

    what winter

    • BigRoy7

      September 26, 2023 at 10:32 pm

      Thank you sir, I asked myself the same question, what winter? You mean 60 degree weather or maybe no lower than 41 degrees? Humm! If 55 below temperatures, EVER comes to Florida, well, many of us would leave! Now that temperature is a bear 🐻 heaven (55 below). Let’s hope that our future temperatures never go to those extreme lows. Maybe 🤔 dogs 🐶 are the real solution, not the guns.

  • Cecilia

    September 26, 2023 at 1:54 am

    Humans are destroying the wildlife habitat and then want to murder the wildlife who are displaced. Humans need to stop destroying everything in their path. I am horrified at the first commentor. We can do better than that.

  • Tom Peterson

    September 26, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Stop destroying bear habitat. Stop clearing forests and wooded areas. Stop building new subdivisions. Do not allow people to move into bear habitat areas. Then and only then will bear encounters be reduced. This in not a bear problem, this is a human problem, treat it as such.

    • Lloyd

      September 26, 2023 at 3:27 pm

      You are absolutely 100% right Tom . I’m a retired Maine Game Warden, and bears were alwas a problem . Either in crops , orchards, camp sites. Most bear gunters won’t use dogs for fear of them getting hit by vehicles. Bears aren’t a problem in the woods but are where they could run unto traffic and have a $1500 dog killed . We had to live trap them , ear tag them, and move them 80-100 miles away. Not always practical.

    • Mike Caldwell

      September 27, 2023 at 4:38 am

      I agree 100 per cent with you. Leaving garbage cans out overnight. They are hungry and with most of their habitat destroyed, there is nothing to eat. I had a bear come through my neighbor hood two evenings ago. I stayed my distance and walked it for two blocks. He never charged or made any hostile advances. I was there to warn anyone outside. He found a garbage can and got some food. Went back in the woods. While he was eating, the dogs behind the fence where barking. He slapped the fence and kept on eating. All natural behavior. Manny things can be done beside killing. Take precautions and stay aware.

  • Joe

    September 26, 2023 at 2:08 pm

    Sheriffs suck.

  • Earl Pitts American

    September 26, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    Good evening America,
    Where are my chickin $Hit conservative Patriot posters? Get in here my Patriots as you know 100% that my #1 comment above is The Way, The Truth, And The Light to totally resolve the Bear Problem in The Florida Panhandle. While being totally fair to both Bears and Humans. TOTALLY.
    Where are you cowards???
    So you are going to let ONE Seirra Club Employee get on here and change his name several times with several bogus fake @55 stories make you crawl up under the bed and hide?
    Earl Pitts American

Comments are closed.


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