Florida Senate Passes Bill to Allow People to Defend Against Bears

Florida Senate Passes Bill to Allow People to Defend Against Bears
Florida Senate Passes Bill to Allow People to Defend Against Bears Istock

On February 21, 2024, the Florida Senate amended and passed HB 87. The bill allows people threatened by bears to use deadly force to protect themselves when they reasonably believe a bear is a danger to themselves, others, or their pets or is causing significant damage to their dwelling. The bill has already passed the House. The changes made in the Senate are not large. It seems likely the bill will end up on Governor DeSantis’ desk and be signed into law.

Floridians had the authority to protect themselves and their property from bears until the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) created a rule in 2012 that made it illegal to take a bear under any circumstances unless specifically authorized by the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

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.
  2. The Commission will issue permits authorizing intentional take of bears when it determines such authorization furthers scientific or conservation purposes which will benefit the survival potential of the species or to reduce property damage caused by bears. For purposes of this rule, activities that are eligible for a permit include:
    1. (a) Collection of scientific data needed for conservation or management of the species;
    2. (b) Taking bears that are causing property damage when no non-lethal options can provide practical resolution to the damage, and the Commission is unable to capture the bear.
  3. The Commission authorizes members of the public to take a bear in an attempt to scare a bear away from people using methods considered non-lethal. Staff shall authorize specific methods and situations that qualify for this authorization at

Under the rule adopted by the FWC, without the vote of a single legislator, the ability of Floridians to protect their homes, property, pets, and, arguably, themselves, was placed into doubt. Floridians were supposed to contact the FWC and ask for permission before they were allowed to protect their property, animals, or, potentially, themselves before they were allowed to use lethal force to stop bears.

In 2012, Florida black bears were not in any jeopardy of extinction, nor were they threatened as a species, as determined by the FWC itself.

From the bear management plan at myfwc.com:

Biological status review indicated that the bear does not meet any criteria for high risk of extinction; Removal of bear from State Threatened Species list approved in June 2011; Draft Plan (FWC 2012) and Bear Conservation Rule (Rule; Appendix III) opened for public review and comment.

What appears to have happened was unelected bureaucrats in the FWC, pressured by special interest groups, decided a few black bears had priority over human pets and property, even though the bear population was not threatened and illegal killing of bears was minimal.

The current proposed legislation, CS/HB 87, corrects the overreach of administrative power of the FWC. The bill defines the circumstances when people can use lethal force to take bears. It is much more restrictive than traditional law, where black bears that are destroying livestock or property can be justifiably killed.  In those circumstances, owners of livestock or property are still required to apply to the FWC before they use lethal force.

The FWC, in their plan, does not give any rationale as to why bears should be allowed to destroy livestock and property while the owners wait on the FWC to decide to issue a permit; to wait while the FWC requires non-lethal methods to be attempted, to wait while the FWC attempts to capture the bear in a live trap.

The bear population in Florida was not threatened. Destruction by bears of livestock and property is/was rare. The purpose of the 2012 FWC rule seemed to be to value bears over human property or livestock.

Analysis: CS/HB 87 is a commonsense restoration of the long-standing legitimate power of humans to protect themselves, others, their pets, and their homes against destruction by bears, which have lost their fear of humans. It is a bizarre commentary on the irrationality of our times when such a bill is necessary.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean WeingartenDean Weingarten

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