DeSantis Sparks Outrage by Signing Legislation Allowing People to Shoot Bears

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 25, 2024

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that’s causing quite the stir.

Known as HB 87, it allows Floridians to shoot bears if they feel threatened. This decision has sparked a wave of debate and concern from many, especially those devoted to wildlife protection.

HB 87: A Closer Look at the Bear Bill

Set to be enforced starting July 1, this new law enables residents to use lethal force against bears under the condition of “imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury” to a person, a pet, or property. 

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Close-up of a black bear's face peeking through lush green foliage in a dense forest

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This broad criterion has opened up a robust dialogue about the possible impacts on humans and bears alike.

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Why Some Residents Support the Bill

In rural North Florida, bear sightings are reportedly on the rise, prompting local support for HB 87.

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A black bear walking through a natural landscape with green bushes and trees in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Supporters argue the law is essential for safety, providing people with a legal recourse to protect themselves from bear encounters.

Wildlife Advocates Decry the New Law

“Very unfortunate,” said Elizabeth Fleming from Defenders of Wildlife, highlighting the disappointment among conservationists. 

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A hunter wearing a camouflage outfit and orange hat, holding a rifle while standing on a wooden platform in a dense forest

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Many fear that the new legislation promotes a potentially harmful “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that could endanger the bear population further.

Political Pushback Against HB 87

Florida’s own Representative Anna V. Eskamani voiced her disapproval on X, formerly Twitter.

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A close-up image of Florida State Representative Anna V. Eskamani speaking into a microphone, set against a blurred background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

She critiqued not just the bear bill but other legislation signed that night by Governor DeSantis, emphasizing her frustration over these decisions and their timing.

A Divided Public Reacts

Social media has been ablaze with reactions to HB 87. 

A black bear sitting atop a large fallen tree in a forest, looking off into the distance

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Critics like Lesley Abravanel have pointed out the irony in the state’s priorities, stressing the contrast between the perceived threat of bears and the more tangible issues with gun control.

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Media Voices Opinions

Journalist Craig Pittman did not hold back his thoughts on X, critiquing the bill as unnecessary and indicative of misplaced legislative focus. 

Close-up shot of a black bear with a focused expression, highlighting its dark fur and shining eyes against a natural, earthy background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His post reflects a sentiment shared by many who question the urgency and validity of this new law.

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What the Law Requires of Residents

Those who act under this new law must report their actions to state wildlife officials within 24 hours and are forbidden from retaining any part of the bear.

A black bear casually strolls along a gravel path with a blurred backdrop of grass and distant yellow flowers

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The law demands that individuals genuinely believe the lethal action was necessary.

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Memorable Moments in Legislative Debate

The discussion around HB 87 had its memorable moments.

Official portrait of a male politician with a friendly smile, wearing a dark suit and tie, set against the backdrop of an American flag

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This included a remark by Representative Jason Shoaf about “crack bears,” which brought an unexpected levity to the serious discussions on wildlife threats.

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Humor Amidst the Debate

A lighter moment occurred when Representative Eskamani asked if Shoaf thought “Cocaine Bear” was a documentary, eliciting a knowing response from Shoaf. 

Florida State Representative Anna V. Eskamani speaking passionately at a podium, with her name displayed in front, in a formal setting with a blurred American flag in the background

Source: AnnaForFlorida/X

These exchanges brought a human element to the otherwise tense legislative debates.

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Conservation and Rising Bear Populations

As Florida’s bear numbers grow, so do human-bear encounters, raising significant questions about the best ways to handle these interactions.

A solitary black bear captured in a natural habitat, walking along the edge of a road surrounded by wild grass

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The introduction of HB 87 highlights the ongoing challenges in balancing human safety with animal conservation.

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The Road Ahead for Wildlife Management

With HB 87 about to be implemented, wildlife officials are gearing up to monitor its effects closely. 

A black bear standing on rocky shoreline, with its mouth open as if vocalizing, set against a backdrop of calm water and green vegetation

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This law will serve as a critical test case for how Florida manages its burgeoning wildlife issues, shaping future policies in wildlife management.

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