Gov. DeSantis loosens restrictions regarding lethal force during bear encounters
Is there any doubt why black bears are no fans of humans?

Proponents say the law needed to be clarified, while critics worry trigger-happy Floridians could threaten the black bear's population.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has approved legislation (HB 87) making clear that Floridians can kill a bear if the animal is threatening a person’s life, pet or property.

Port St. Joe Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf sponsored the legislation, dubbed the “Self Defense Act.” Republican Sen. Corey Simon carried the Senate companion (SB 632).

Current law already allowed individuals to kill a bear in life-or-death situations. The new legislation seeks to make clear that individuals won’t be punished in other circumstances.

The bill language says no administrative, civil or criminal penalty is appropriate if a person “reasonably believed that his or her action was necessary to avoid an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or herself or to another, an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to a pet, or substantial damage to a dwelling.”

DeSantis OK’d the legislation in an announcement late Friday.

The measure’s proponents argued that bears wandering on to people’s property can be a threat, and that current state law and guidance elsewhere was confusing enough that some people may be afraid to act, worried that they could be punished for protecting themselves.

The updated legislation does have some restrictions. Individuals cannot “lure the bear with food or attractants for an illegal purpose, including, but not limited to, training dogs to hunt bears.” The person cannot “intentionally or recklessly place himself or herself or a pet in a situation in which he or she would be likely to need to use lethal force.”

And if a bear is shot and killed, the individual must notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) within 24 hours.

But critics worry that the legislation isn’t needed and will threaten the state’s black bear population. They argue that people who encounter black bears are often careless in their own actions, such as with instances of bears wandering onto property looking for food laying out in the open.

“Governor DeSantis has delivered a major failure for Florida’s environment by signing HB 87 into law,” said Susannah Randolph, Sierra Club Florida chapter director. “Since its inception, Sierra Club Florida has called on the Governor to put a stop to this extreme bill, and we condemn him for approving this absurd and dangerous legislation.”

And while the black bear isn’t a protected species anymore — its population rose in recent decades after falling to between 300 and 500 animals in the 1970s — there are still only around 4,000 in the state, according to FWC. Making it easier to kill bears could hurt that progress, critics worry.

Shoaf, however, argued that number undercounts the current wild population.

The measure passed on a 24-12 vote in the Senate, mostly along party lines. Sen. Ileana Garcia was the only Republican to vote “no,” along with 11 Democrats.

The House then approved the measure on an 83-28 vote, with Republicans mostly in favor and Democrats mostly opposed.

Democratic Reps. Christopher BenjaminDaryl CampbellHillary CasselKevin Chambliss, Kimberly Daniels, Gallop Franklin, Allison Tant and Marie Woodson voted in favor of the bill. And Republican Reps. Linda ChaneyPeggy Gossett-Seidman, Rachel Saunders Plakon and David Smith voted against it.


Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


  • Elvis Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

    June 22, 2024 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you Ron DeSantis,
    BTW Florida you should make clear to any responding local or FWC Officers that the deceased ROUGE BEAR is on your property and therefor YOUR PROPERTY.
    Put the bear in the back of your PU TRUCK in the presence of the responding officers and take it to your local Deer meat processer to be cut up into steaks and roasts. Its best slow cooked.
    You will need to stand firm on your property rights as the responding officers will try to TRICK YOU into thinking they need the bear to research what its been eating and if it was still pooping in The Woods.
    Lets practice HELL NO THAT BEAR TRIED TO KILL ME ON MY PROPERTY. Git yourn grubby hands offin My Bear.
    Thanks again Ron,

    • George

      June 22, 2024 at 12:43 pm

      Don’t forget to kill the mama bear. Just wing the cubs. Cracker.

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  • George

    June 22, 2024 at 12:41 pm

    “no administrative, civil or criminal penalty is appropriate if a person “reasonably believed…”
    How about public shaming?

  • tom palmer

    June 22, 2024 at 7:01 pm

    This was a bad bill and now it’s a bad law. However it fits into this hunter lobby proposed constitutional amendment that likely lead to more trophy bear hunts using dogs to chase and tree their prey. Haven;t heard about this? Read something besides this website.

  • Billy Nash

    June 23, 2024 at 12:20 pm

    This is a terrible law. Pandering to the gun lobby and hunters. The bears will suffer and there will be accidental shootings of humans and pets. There are many ways to deter bears from one’s property but those were not considered. The black bears don’t want to interact with humans – just leave the alone and they will try to find habitat which is quickly disappearing as Florida gets paved over by DeSantis’ developer friends.

  • Silly Wabbit

    June 24, 2024 at 10:53 am

    Arm bears!

  • TJC

    June 24, 2024 at 11:00 am

    Yeah, we Floridians have the highest auto and home insurance rates in the nation, and that affects most of us living here, but bears are a big problem that affects every single one of us…just kidding.
    Another “tough guy” dumbass ploy by the Governor and his weak-kneed pals in Tallahassee, always keen to say look there, look here, look over there, just not behind the curtain where we’re really just acting like mean-spirited little boys.

Comments are closed.


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