Florida's Battle Against Black Bears Intensifies as Legislator Proposes

Florida's Battle Against Black Bears Intensifies as Legislator Proposes "Self Defense Act"

Mateo Guillamont
Mateo Guillamont
September 28, 2023

Tallahassee, Fl- Rep. Jason Shoaf (R) of North Florida introduced legislation permitting the use of lethal force against Florida Black Bears in certain situations. 

Titled, the “Self Defense Act”, the bill would allow Floridians to neutralize Black Bears if they encounter one on their private property and are threatened by it. 

The Self-Defense Act follows an exponential growth in the Black Bear population, mostly concentrated in North Florida. Florida’s Black Bear population plummeted in the 70s, and the state enacted conservation measures to bolster the regeneration of the species. 

However, the population explosion has caught many Florida residents off guard, with bears making appearances at places such as Walt Disney World in Orlando and the Gulf Coast beaches.

Currently, it is illegal for Floridians to kill or harm Black Bears in any way shape, or form. Representative Shoaf’s legislation would change current law and permit the killing of Black Bears in instances of self-defense.

If passed, Floridians would be able to defend themselves from Black Bear attacks starting July 1st, 2024. 

According to local radio, however, Representative Shoaf went even further, calling for a state-wide bear hunt to stabilize the bear's deluging population. 

"We really need a bear hunt,” Shoaf said. “It’s what we need here in North Florida. We’re inundated. We’ve got way too many. Until we do that, we’re going to continue to have these problems.”

Aside from posing a public security threat, Black Bears can also be damaging for Florida’s Agricultural sector. According to a Michigan State University report, Black Bears can damage “field crops such as corn, sweet corn, oats and sunflowers” as well as agricultural facilities. 

Earlier this week, Senator Rick Scott hosted a roundtable with agriculture policy leaders in the Senate to tackle Florida’s broader Agricultural problems. 

Sen. Scott has been attempting to pass his bipartisan Block Grant Assistance Act in hopes of providing agriculture producers with block grants following natural disasters such as hurricanes.

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Mateo Guillamont

Mateo Guillamont

Mateo is a Miami-based political reporter covering national and local politics

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