Florida Wildlife Officials Provide Solutions to Reduce Human-Bear Interactions

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is taking action to address the growing concerns regarding human-bear conflicts in Franklin County, as announced by Executive Director Roger Young during the commission’s meeting in Jensen Beach on Wednesday. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the agency is actively working on enhancing their surveillance response, which includes the implementation of traps.

Moreover, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is collaborating with Franklin County to find a viable solution to these escalating interactions between humans and bears. Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith has expressed his apprehensions to both the agency and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office regarding the mounting conflicts in this rural county situated southwest of Tallahassee.

In response to the pressing issue, Representative Jason Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican representing Franklin County, recently introduced a bill (HB 87). The proposed legislation, set to be considered during the upcoming 2024 legislative session commencing in January, aims to grant individuals the authority to kill bears without permits or authorization if they perceive a direct threat or believe it is necessary for self-defense. It is worth noting that similar bills have not made it through the past two sessions.

While some support this legislative approach, Kate MacFall, the Florida state director of the Humane Society of the United States, argues that the focus should be on improving trash management and education rather than resorting to a bear hunt. According to MacFall, a bear hunt would not effectively resolve the concerns surrounding human-bear conflicts, as it fails to address the issue of bears venturing into populated areas and neighborhoods.

The topic of bear hunting has long been a contentious one. The last bear hunt in Florida took place in 2015, with an anticipated harvest of 320 bears over a span of one week. Shockingly, within just two days, 304 bears had already been killed. As of 2017, an estimate indicated that Florida’s bear population stood at approximately 4,050.

In conclusion, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, under the guidance of Executive Director Roger Young, is actively working towards mitigating the escalating conflicts between humans and bears in Franklin County. Collaboration with local authorities and the exploration of legislative measures are underway. Nevertheless, there remains a divergence of opinions regarding the most effective approach, with some advocating for improved trash management and education, while others propose a bear hunt. The delicate balance between human safety and wildlife conservation continues to be a subject of intense debate and deliberation in the state of Florida.

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