Florida bill would allow people to kill bears if they 'feel threatened'

'This isn’t a bear hunting bill,' Sen. Corey Simon says
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-10 18:43:26-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's being called a "stand-your-ground" bill, for bears. As Florida's population has grown, encounters with the state's native black bears have become more common, and some say dangerous. That prompted a bill that would act as a license to kill.

The Florida Senate had its first committee hearing on this legislation Wednesday after the upper chamber failed to approve a similar measure last year. It all comes as black bears have gone viral in the Sunshine State. Videos from North, Central and even South Florida have become a staple on local news.

At times — things have resulted in violence. Last year, a mama black bear was shot in Sanford as a homeowner reportedly was trying to protect a dog.

"This isn't a bear hunting bill," Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee. "It's a public safety issue. This is a self-defense issue. That’s what the bill is."

Simon is the man behind a bear bill to — he said — help protect Floridians who have dangerous encounters with these creatures. If approved — his legislation allows lethal force if a person "feels threatened” and wants to protect “himself or herself on his or her private property."

The legislation also prevents people from using bait to lure the animals onto their property.

"We're going to figure out a way to protect people and their families first and foremost," Simon said. "Conservation is not lost on me. We will also take a look at that. Listen, this isn't a wipe out the bears conversation, this is a protect families conversation."

During the committee's public comment period, the legislation got support from several homeowners, including from law enforcement who agreed that the safety of Floridians was paramount.

Plenty of others, however, worried the policy was too vague and that it could encourage unsafe gun use.

"It's too broad— you know," Joe Humphreys, a Floridian from Sanford, said. "What is fearful?"

Humphreys felt a better idea would be having folks secure their garbage, which can attract the animals. That or just staffing up state wildlife officials who are trained to handle dangerous animal encounters.

"FWC, like most government agencies, are overworked, underpaid," he said. "Let's give them the resources."

Instead, the Senate committee advanced the bear bill, with two voting in opposition. While its supporters were happy, there are still plenty of others who find the bill unbearable as it continues to its two remaining stops before reaching the chamber floor.