Florida Governor Garners Controversy For New Bear Law
Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Florida Governor Garners Controversy For New Bear Law

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is garnering controversy thanks to a new bear law. The governor signed a bill into law that would allow residents to shoot any bears if they perceived them as a threat. Wildlife advocates believes the bill opens up a Pandora's box of potential neglect.

DeSantis signed HB 87 into law last Friday. The law will go into effect on July 1 and allow residents to use lethal force against bears. They must believe there is an "imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury" to themselves, others, pets, or property. Supporters believe the bill is necessary to protect Florida residents legally. They said that residents have encountered bears on a more frequent basis in North Florida.

However, not everyone agrees. Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative with Defenders of Wildlife, called the bill "very unfortunate." She plans to challenge it. The organization argued it would introduce a "shoot first, ask questions later" mindset. They also said it "promotes a false narrative that bears are overpopulating and threaten human safety."

Please enable Javascript to view this content

Meanwhile, Florida state Representative Anna V. Eskamani also voiced her displeasure. On X, formerly Twitter, she wrote, "On a Friday night DeSantis just signed multiple bills into law, including legislation that makes it easier to shoot and kill black bears (HB87) and legislation that guts Florida's ethics commission agencies. Very disappointing."

Bear Law Draws Controversy

Meanwhile, others believe that there are more important issues. One wrote, "DeSantis signs self-defense law to let Floridians shoot 'menacing' bears, because bears are such a huge problem in Florida. But MENACING GUNS THAT KILL INNOCENT CHILDREN ARE PERFECTLY LEGAL AND EASILY ACCESSIBLE."

Meanwhile, supporters point to provisions that should prevent abuse. For one, individuals must report any killing of a bear to wildlife officials within 24 hours. They also may not keep any trophies from the animal. Likewise, the shooter must believe that their life is in jeopardy, and they cannot have intentionally put themselves in the path of the bear. Supporters believe these provisions will help keep the law nuanced.

However, The bill's sponsor, Florida state Representative Jason Shoaf came underfire for how he described the bill. "When you run into one of these crack bears you should be able to shoot it—period," he said in a House committee meeting. In response, several asked him if he was aware the 2023 movie Cocaine Bear was a film and not a documentary.

"Yes, I'm aware," Shoaf responded.