Florida Stand Your Ground…Against Bears

by Vern Evans
Bigstock

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Self-defense isn’t just for human threats…it can also be for threats from black bears, too, or at least that is what a bill under consideration in Florida would help clarify.

The Florida House is set to revisit a contentious bill aimed at strengthening self-defense claims for individuals shooting bears on their property, following a Senate amendment. The bill, initially passed by the House, received a 24-12 vote in the Republican-majority Senate. The amendment specifies that self-defense protections do not apply to those attracting bears deliberately, such as for dog training. Critics argue the bill could lead to increased deaths of the once-threatened bear population.

Sponsored by Sen. Corey Simon, the bill addresses concerns about bears entering residential areas, clarifying that residents are not obliged to shoot bears but are protected if they believe a bear poses an imminent threat. It requires individuals who kill bears under perceived threat to report the incident within 24 hours, ensuring they did not intentionally provoke the situation. The legislation also prohibits the possession or sale of bear carcasses post-incident.

Democrats have criticized the bill, urging for alternative measures to prevent bear-human interactions, highlighting concerns over a “gun-happy culture” and the potential endangerment of protected species. The bill gained momentum following comments from Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith about the area’s growing bear population. Proponents argue that current strategies by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, including the BearWise program, are insufficient.

Florida’s bear population has rebounded from 300-500 in the 1970s to an estimated 4,050 in 2017, following their removal from the state’s threatened species list in 2012. The state conducted a bear hunt in 2015, resulting in 304 bears killed, which was close to the target “harvest objective.” The House will reconsider the bill due to the Senate’s amendment.

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