Thursday, February 22, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: FL Senate votes to allow people to kill Florida black bears in self-defense anywhere in the state. (Florida Phoenix)

Flummoxed as to why GQP floozies want to kill black bears.  Please help me understand.  From Florida Phoenix: 

FL Senate votes to allow people to kill Florida black bears in self-defense anywhere in the state

BY:  - FEBRUARY 21, 2024 5:59 PM

 The Florida Black Bear. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Florida Senate has approved a controversial measure to allow people to kill black bears in self-defense anywhere in the state. Democrats opposed the bill.

The proposal, called the “Self-Defense Act” (SB 632), says that an individual would not be subject to any criminal or civil penalty for shooting and killing a bear if the person believed that they were in an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or to others.”

It would also be legal as long as the person did not lure the bear with food or “attractants for an illegal purpose,” such as training dogs to hunt bears. And it requires that the person who killed the bear that they must notify the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) within 24 hours after the shooting, and may not possess, sell or dispose of the bear or its parts.

On the Senate floor on Wednesday, Democrats opposed the measure, with some saying that it would be more appropriate to emphasize education and mandate that people secure their garbage.

Animal rights advocates have argued strongly against the bill.

Kate MacFall, the Florida state director of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote recently in an op-ed published by the Tampa Bay Times, saying that “bears are critical to Florida’s ecosystem — they spread even more seed than birds.” She added in the op-ed: “They’re also extremely family-oriented, as mother bears will spend up to two years taking care of their cubs. Because bears have small litters and are extremely slow to reproduce, letting individuals to kill them for any perceived ‘threat’ would allow unacceptable losses to their population.”

MacFall now wants to call on members of the public to tell DeSantis to veto the bill when it reaches his desk.

The Senate bill passed 24-12, with Republican Ileana Garcia joining 11 Democrats in opposing the measure. In the House version passed last week, the bill passed mostly along party lines, with three Republicans voting against the measure and four Democrats supporting it. Both chambers will need to be in alignment to send the bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Senators spoke about their views on bear killings.

“If you choose to live in an area where you know that there are bears, then you have to behave in a certain area, so as to not attract your bears,” said Broward County Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky. “And we know this is a gun happy culture and giving them the permission to shoot is what this bill is doing instead of taking every single precaution that we could possibly take.”

But Miami-Dade County Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez said that while bears may be prevalent in more rural areas of the state, she actually had a bear wandering along the same street where her children play every day in her South Florida district last year.

“To me this bill is about safety and protecting our families on our property,” she said. “I don’t live in North Florida. I live in the southernmost district. I live in Homestead, but I actually had a bear on my block, which is pretty rare. But I do think that it’s important for each and every Floridian in each and every district not just North Florida have the ability to protect their families.”

Broward County Democratic Sen. Lori Berman worried about “open shooting on our streets in any area.”

“You’re jeopardizing people. You’re jeopardizing children,” she said, adding that if people felt threatened by a bear, they should call local law enforcement to handle the situation.

But North Florida Republican Corey Simon, the sponsor of the Senate measure, said that many of his constituents live in rural areas where law enforcement may not be able to respond so quickly.

“In those fiscally constrained counties, when you only have two or three deputies on call at a time, showing up at your house could be two hours, or a bear issue could be the next day,” he said. “It just depends on how many folks and how close they may be to the residents. And what we don’t want to do is hamstring our people in thinking that they can’t protect themselves.”

Black bears (the only bear that lives in Florida) were labeled an endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) back in the 1970s, but after decades of statewide protections and management, FWC determined in 2012 that they were no longer facing a high risk of extinction and were removed from the state threatened list, according to a staff analysis.

FWC estimated the statewide bear population to be approximately 4,050 bears, according to a 2017 report – the last time they provided an estimate.

According to a Senate bill analysis, as the populations of both humans and bears have expanded in the state, there has been an increase in human-bear conflicts, particularly in residential areas, where bears often search for food. Between 2009 and 2018, FWC euthanized an average of 38 bears annually due to public safety risks. The FWC found that a majority of the mortalities were associated with bears seeking out unsecured garbage or other human-provided food sources. In 2022, FWC received 5,907 calls relating to bears, with 36 percent considered “core complaints.”

CorrectionThe original story said that the bill was going directly to the governor’s desk. But that is not the case.

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Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.


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