Wildlife activists say kill the bear bill, not the bears

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Florida black bear
A Florida Black Bear rifles through a garbage can. Photo by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commission via Flickr

The Taking of Bears law, or HB 87, has been a debate over the past few months as it has passed through legislation and now onto the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

If the governor signs it, then a person can legally kill a bear in self-defense.

“A person is not subject to any administrative, civil, or criminal penalty for taking a bear with lethal force,” according to the bill’s language.

To kill a bear lawfully, people will need to follow the list of regulations that sit alongside the bill, including:

  • A person reasonably believed that their action was necessary to avoid an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others, to pets, or damage to property
  • A person did not lure the bear with food or attractants for an illegal purpose, including, but not limited to, training dogs to hunt bears
  • Did not intentionally or recklessly place themselves or a pet in a situation in which they would be likely to need to use lethal force
  • Notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) within 24 hours after using lethal force to take the bear.

The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environmental advocacy organization in the nation. The Florida chapter is one of many that want to see the bill vetoed.

The group said the bill is “built upon the falsehood that Florida faces an epidemic of ‘crack bears,'” according to a press release.

“Crack bears” is a term that Rep. Jason Shoaf used in a debate back in Jan. to describe bears that are not afraid of humans, break into houses, and have other erratic behaviors towards humans.

This bill is not about bears, we love bears, they are cute and cuddly and an amazing creature. This is about a nuisance bear that has become conditioned to coming into people’s homes,” Shoaf said in a video of a Jan. meeting from OutDoorLife.

Sierra Club Florida’s Political Director Javier Estevez said he wants DeSantis to veto the bill because there are more important issues facing Floridians.

“A Republican Legislator stood up in a debate and talked about crack bears. Taking fictional villains from a movie and passing legislation for a problem that doesn’t exist. When real problems (exist) for everyday Floridians” 

Estevez said people can already protect themselves against bear attacks, so he doesn’t understand why the law is needed.

“It doesn’t negate anything or better anything it just expands the rights of someone to kill wildlife and bears in particular,” he said.

Estevez said there have been less than 40 bear/human incidents in the state since 2006 and no fatal bear attacks have been recorded.

“It’s a dangerous solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.

The Sierra Club said the extended bill could have negative consequences, like allowing people to kill bears unnecessarily.

Bear killings have been a controversial topic in the state for years, especially after the “bear hunt of 2015,” when about 300 bears were killed in two days.

The black bear is now considered a recovered species, according to the Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF).

However, they are protected by the Bear Conservation Rule:

“It is illegal to take, possess, injure, shoot, collect or sell black bears or their parts or to attempt to engage in such conduct except as authorized by Commission rule or by permit from the Commission. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, which are found in the Common Law Defense of Necessity,” according to the FWF.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) classified the black bear as a threatened species from 1974 through 2012. Populations of the mammal increased from 2015 to 2017, according to data from the FWC.

If DeSantis signs the bill, it will go into effect July 1.

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