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Shoaf bill would allow for killing bears if threatened

State Rep. Jason Shoaf wants to pass legislation that will give Floridians the right to kill a bear if they feel either themselves or their property are being threatened.

Referred to as the Self Defense Act, House Bill 1587, which was filed Monday, would justify the use of lethal force to take a bear without a permit or authorization “if a person feels threatened and believes that using such force is necessary to protect himself or herself on his or her private property.

This right to use lethal force would not apply if a person intentionally “lures a bear with food or attractants for an illegal purpose, including, but not limited to, training dogs to hunt bears; or provokes a bear to incite an attack.”

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, the state’s first regulated bear hunting season started in 1936, and continued in parts of the state until 1994. A limited bear hunting season was re-opened in four areas in October 2015, including Franklin County, but was ended after hunters quickly reached the allotted quote and has remained closed since that time.

If a person kills a bear in accordance with this proposed law, which has yet to have a similar bill in the Florida Senate, would have to notify FWC within 24 hours of  the taking, and would be prohibited from possessing, selling or disposing of the taken bear or its parts. FWC would be responsible for developing rules for disposing of such bears.

If passed, the bill would take effect July 1.

Shoaf represents Florida’s 7th District, which includes Gulf County.