Against the claw: Senate sends amended bill loosening bear-killing rules back to House
Development is pushing Florida black bears into more populated areas.

Only 1 Republican voted against the measure with 11 Democrats.

Florida homeowners may have fewer legal worries after killing a bear on their property under an amended measure the Senate just sent back to the House.

The bill (HB 87) would enable Sunshine State residents to use lethal force to “take a bear” if the animal roams onto their property and they believe it poses a threat to them, another person, their pets or their home.

Florida’s Common Law Defense of Necessity already allows bear killings in inescapable and lethal situations. But many residents are confused about their right to self-defense due to conflicting guidance elsewhere, said Tallahassee GOP Sen. Corey Simon, the measure’s Senate sponsor.

“What we don’t want to do is hamstring our people into thinking they can’t protect themselves,” he said Wednesday before the vote.

Under HB 87, which would go into effect July 1, people who kill a bear on their property must notify the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) within 24 hours of the incident. They’d also be prohibited from selling or disposing of any part of the animal — that would be up to the state — and the bill’s allowances would be void if a person lures or provokes a bear into a confrontation.

Black bear attacks in Florida are rare. They’re notoriously shy. The FWC, which has constitutional jurisdiction over the animals, prohibits killing them in most cases.

But according to Simon, FWC officials are “on board with the rules change” he and Port St. Joe Rep. Jason Shoaf proposed because it will free up state personnel to focus on preventative measures like bear-proofing trash cans while giving clarity to residents in situations where quick thinking is vital.

Bear encounters are growing more commonplace, he added, particularly in fiscally constrained, rural North Florida counties where some residents have said the animals are brasher than they used to be.

“I didn’t bring this bill because it was just something I read on the back of a napkin,” he said. “It was personal testimony of folks in my district, when I traveled, that are having this problem.”

HB 87, which the House approved by an 88-29 vote last week, cleared the Senate floor with an amendment 24-12. It will now go back to the House for final approval.

Only Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia crossed the aisle to vote “no” alongside 11 Democrats in the chamber. She did not speak against the measure.

Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky noted that the bill lacks any educational component, granting Floridians broader ability to kill a protected species while providing zero instruction for how to mitigate dangerous situations.

Polsky also criticized the bill’s one-size-fits-all rules, which may prove problematic and lethal in denser residential areas. She cited an October incident in which a black bear ventured into a suburban Sanford resident’s garage to consume food left out in the open.

A month before, another Sanford homeowner fatally shot a mother black bear known to walk around with her two cubs while protecting his dog. The FWC declined to charge the man.

“We know that people, given the permission or the license to shoot, would be more likely to shoot (if) they’re (not) afraid to get into trouble,” she said. “Well, isn’t that what we want? We want hesitation not only for the safety of all humans but for the protected species of the bear.”

Losses of habitat and unregulated hunting dwindled the Florida black bear population to between 300 and 500 animals in the 1970s, landing them on the “threatened species” list throughout most counties. Fifty years later, there are still only around 4,000 in the state, according to FWC.

Simon asserted that the Florida black bear is “not currently a protected species.” While the animal is no longer considered a conservation concern, the FWC still classifies it as protected under the state’s Bear Conservation Rule, which HB 87 will soften significantly.

Overriding the constitutional authority of the FWC may invite lawsuits, Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman warned.

“I’m sad when we pass laws that are subject to constitutional challenges,” she said. “Because it is often taxpayer money at stake.”

Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, who recounted a run-in with a bear near her house in Homestead, said Floridians deserve peace of mind and to feel safe and empowered at home.

“I don’t live in North Florida. I live in the southernmost district,” she said. “But I actually had a bear on my block, which is pretty rare. And I do think it’s important for each and every Floridian in each and every district (to) have the ability to protect their family.”


Editor’s note: This report has been updated to reflect the bill’s current status.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Earl Pitts "Sage Bear Expert" American

    February 21, 2024 at 7:48 pm

    Good evening Florida
    Tina Polsky likely has:
    1.) Never been out of the city in her life.
    2.) Values an animal’s life over a human’s life.
    3.) Would unload her entire clip without hesitation but wants the rest of y’all to hesitate in front of an angry bear which can take your head clean off your body with one swipe of his “Island Size Paw”.
    Thank you America,
    Earl Pitts “Sage Bear Expert” American

    • Incels of floridumb

      February 22, 2024 at 5:53 am

      The irony of Hamas Earl being triggered by a hunting article…

      • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

        February 22, 2024 at 6:15 am

        Chastized for arrogant dis-respect to Earl.

  • Tom Palmer

    February 21, 2024 at 10:58 pm

    I guess it is harder than adopting Bearwise policies

    • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

      February 22, 2024 at 6:21 am

      Good Mornting Tomskie,
      You are on the edge of a painfull chastizement from me, Earl Pitts Anerican, for not disagreeing with the post above from that evil Earl Hater “Incels”.
      Watch yourself Tomskie I, Earl Pitts American, got my “Sage Eye” on you.
      Do better Son,
      Earl Pitts American

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 22, 2024 at 8:54 am

    The folks at Bobby’s Monkey Bar in Key West seem to think Ron DeSantis is a bear. And Ron’s campaign commercials support the idea beary strongly.

  • Fake bill is back door to more bad policy

    February 22, 2024 at 2:56 pm

    Anyone who moves to a rural area from a big city needs to get a clue on how to secure their trash to avoid attracting bears if they live that far out. You have invaded their territory, not the other way around. This is just an excuse for the exotic meat industry to be able to sell black bear meat from Florida and it will cause their extinction. It’s a big market supported by people who do not care about anything but stuffing their fat faces with endangered species because it makes them feel big and important. Black bears do not attack people, and anyone who has lived in a rural area knows this. If you move from a city to a rural area without a clue, that’s on you. This is just malicious willful ignorance and a back door to opening up free range on more endangered species. They won’t quit until everything that made Florida unique and wild is just gone.

  • Incels of floridumb

    February 22, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    May a bear find Earl, since he loves them so.

Comments are closed.


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