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People would be allowed to kill bears on their property without permits when they feel threatened or think it is necessary for protection, under a bill filed Wednesday by Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee.
The bill (SB 632), proposed for the legislative session that will start Jan. 9, would require people to notify the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission within 24 hours of killing bears.
They also would be prohibited from possessing or selling the bear carcasses. The proposal also wouldn’t apply to people who provoke bears.
Simon’s bill is identical to a measure (HB 87) filed in September by Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe.
Simon and Shoaf in September heard from Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials over concerns about increased interactions between people and bears in Smith’s rural county southwest of Tallahassee.
Shoaf endorsed the state holding a bear hunt after Smith raised the issue as a way to help manage the area’s bear population.
Bear hunts, which have not been held since 2015, have long been controversial. The 2015 hunt was expected to result in 320 bears being killed in one week.
But after two days, 304 were dead.
A 2017 estimate placed the bear population in Florida at 4,050.
Kate MacFall, Florida state director of the Humane Society of the United States, has said the focus should be improving trash management and education to help reduce human-bear interactions.