“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for managing and conserving Florida’s wildlife. This bill sets a dangerous precedent by allowing lawmakers to give that authority to all Floridians. Lawmakers should fund programs to educate people about living responsibly with local wildlife to avoid conflicts in the first place. Instead, landowners have been permitted to take a dangerous, unwarranted, violent course of action.”

Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative, Defenders of Wildlife
St. Petersburg, Fl.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made an unfortunate and deadly decision for Florida’s black bears by signing a bill into law that allows state residents to shoot and kill these animals on their property without legal penalty. The governor signed HB 87, the “Self Defense Act,” a move which will allow needless killings of black bears — and set a dangerous precedent for other Florida wildlife, all while endangering human safety. The bill becomes law on July 1. 

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is responsible for managing and conserving Florida’s wildlife. This bill sets a dangerous precedent by allowing lawmakers to give that authority to all Floridians,” said Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative with Defenders of Wildlife. “Lawmakers should fund programs to educate people about living responsibly with local wildlife to avoid conflicts in the first place. Instead, landowners have been permitted to take a dangerous, unwarranted, violent course of action.”

This new state law allows Florida residents to take lethal action against any black bear on their property that they believe poses a threat to themselves, others, or their property. The law gives vague parameters of perceived harm that leave room for bears to be killed without posing any actual threat, including those simply crossing property lines on their way through their own natural habitat, which has been fragmented by generations of human development and urban sprawl.  

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American Black Bear Cub
Tina Shaw/USFWS

Defenders of Wildlife is concerned that some Florida residents may interpret this new law as a permission slip to take lethal action against other wildlife. The new law also opens the door for human and pet neighbors to be injured or killed by stray bullets. Finally, Defenders believes the law sets a dangerous precedent for similar laws targeting more of Florida’s wildlife.

Gov. DeSantis also approved funding for bear-resistant garbage containers in Franklin County. The use of bear-resistant trash management in parts of Florida with bear activity is a crucial step to preventing bears from being lured into neighborhoods to forage in residential trash cans and reducing the type of bear-human interactions that prompted introduction of HB 87.

The Florida black bear was removed from the state’s threatened species list in 2012, following decades of hard work by agencies and conservation organizations to recover it from diminished numbers. Defenders helped lead the way by connecting habitats, advocating for safe wildlife crossings, and promoting coexistence between people and wildlife. Thanks to that work, the species’ numbers have risen from an estimated 500 bears in Florida in 1994 to around 4,000 today. 

For over 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has remained dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come. To learn more, please visit https://defenders.org/newsroom or follow us on X @Defenders.

  

Media Contact

Senior Florida Representative
efleming@defenders.org
(727) 823-3888
Communications Specialist
jpetrequin@defenders.org
(202) 772-0243

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