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State explores bear hunting

There are around 4,050 bears in Florida according to the latest estimate. [Photo by Getty Images]

The executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the agency is trying to address concerns about increased human-bear conflicts in Franklin County.

“We are currently working to increase our surveillance response. That includes setting traps,” Executive Director Roger Young said as the commission met in Jensen Beach on Oct. 4. Young said the agency is working with Franklin County on a solution.

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith has raised concerns about interactions between humans and bears in the rural county southwest of Tallahassee.

Rep. Jason Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican whose district includes Franklin County, filed a bill (H.B. 87) that would allow people to kill bears without permits or authorization when they feel threatened or believe such force is necessary for protection. The bill will come up for consideration during the 2024 legislative session, which starts in January. Similar legislation did not pass during the past two sessions.

Kate MacFall, the Florida director of the Humane Society of the United States, said the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission should focus on improved trash management and education instead of killing bears. “A bear hunt will not fix the concern with human-bear conflicts,” MacFall said. “Killing bears deep in the woods will not address the bears in town, neighborhoods.”

The state last held a bear hunt in 2015. The hunt was expected to kill 320 bears in a week, but 304 were killed in two days. A 2017 estimate placed the bear population in Florida at 4,050.


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