Thursday, June 20, 2024

FL: Governor DeDantis Recieves Bill to Restore the Ability to Shoot Bears in Defense of People, Pets, and Dwellings

Image from Winter Springs, Florida, Police Department


On  June 7, 2021, Florida Governor DeSantis received HB0087 along with 24 other bills. Because the bill was sent after the Florida legislature had adjourned for the session, Governor DeSantis has 15 days to sign the bill, allow the bill to become law, or to veto the bill. From the

The Florida legislature overwhelmingly voted for HB0087 on March 8, 2024. The bill is titled Taking of Bears. It restores the ability of people in Florida to protect themselves, their pets and their dwellings from black bears, without having to ask permission of the Florida state bureaucracy first. The legal ability to defend pets and dwellings from bears was stripped away in a regulation created by Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC)in 2012. 68A-4.009 Florida Black Bear Conservation:

  1. No person shall 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.

The Florida legislature was not involved. No elected official voted on this major change in the law. Because law abiding citizens with property and assets to lose try to follow the law, the effect of this regulation was to cast doubt on the ability of people to defend even themselves and others from bears, without first obtaining permission from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission. Even when black bears were invading homes and destroying property, residents were worried that shooting the bear might result in adverse legal consequences.

This is a reversal of traditional law which was in effect until 2012. If a bear was destroying property or killing livestock, the bear could be stopped with lethal force. The 2012 regulation requires the owner of the livestock or property to contact the Fish & Wildlife Commission first, then attempt to stop the depredations with non-lethal means. If this fails, then the Fish and Wildlife Commission may issue a depredation permit.

HB007 is a partial restoration to the law which existed before the power grab by the FWC in 2012. It restores the ability of people to use lethal force against bears who are a threat to their persons, pets or dwellings. To protect livestock and other property, people are still required to obtain a depredation permit from the FWC. If a bear is taken in defense of persons, pets or dwellings, the take has to be reported to the FWC within 24 hours. The person who takes the bear is not allowed to keep any part of the bear. The law is set to take effect on July 1, 2024.

The Florida bear population is skyrocketing. Black bears in Florida are not in any danger of extinction. Black bears were removed from the State Threatened Species list by the FWC. The last time the bear population was estimated was in 2016, at about 4,350 bears. Estimating from natural increase in other states, the population is likely over 7,000 today. Another study to estimate the current population is supposed to be ongoing. As the bear population increases, problem bears invade suburbs and cities. Because they are overprotected, they lose their fear of humans. Some of those bears become problem bears and need to be removed from the population.

HB0087 allows people to remove the problem bears as they are being problems. The number of illegal kills of bears is so small, the FWC cannot measure it. The number of bears taken under HB0087 will probably be less than 30 a year. About 300 bears are killed in vehicle accidents each year in Florida. Hundreds of bear cubs are killed and eaten by adult male bears in Florida each year. Most problem bears are male bears.

There is no official record of a black bear killing a person in Florida. There were 37 bear-human conflicts in Florida from 2006 to 2022, where the bear made physical contact with a human. The first human killed by a black bear in California happened with a rising bear population last November. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife is reluctant to issue depredation permits.

Analysis: HB0087 is a commonsense measure to restore the ability of people in Florida to defend themselves, their pets, and their dwellings from problem black bears. It is expected Governor DeSantis will sign the bill.


©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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