Florida wildlife officials are working to help county ‘overrun’ by bears

‘We are currently working to increase our surveillance response, that includes setting traps.’

click to enlarge Florida wildlife officials are working to help county ‘overrun’ by bears
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The executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Wednesday 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.

Young added the agency is working with Franklin County on a “solution to these interactions.”

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith has raised concerns to the agency and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office about interactions between humans and bears in the rural county southwest of Tallahassee.
Last week, Rep. Jason Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican whose district includes Franklin County, filed a bill (HB 87) that would allow people to kill bears without permits or authorization when they feel threatened or believe such force is necessary for protection.

Shoaf filed the bill for consideration during the 2024 legislative session, which will start in January. Similar legislation has not passed during the past two sessions.

Kate MacFall, Florida state 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 holding a bear hunt.

“A bear hunt will not fix the concern with human-bear conflicts,” MacFall said last week. “Killing bears deep in the woods will not address the bears in town, neighborhoods.”

Bear hunting has long been controversial. The state last held a hunt in 2015, which was expected to result in 320 bears being killed over a one-week period. After two days, 304 were dead.

A 2017 estimate placed the bear population in Florida at 4,050.

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