DeSantis signs bill permitting lethal force in self-defense against bears

by | Jun 24, 2024



Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Self Defense Act” into law, allowing Floridians to use lethal force against bears in self-defense without facing penalties, provided the action is necessary to prevent an imminent threat of death or serious injury.


Floridians now have legal grounds to use lethal force against bears in self-defense, following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of the “Self Defense Act” into law on Friday.

The legislation stipulates that individuals who use lethal force against a bear will not face administrative, civil, or criminal penalties under certain conditions, such as having a reasonable belief that lethal action is necessary to avoid an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to oneself.

Additionally, an individual is prohibited from luring a bear with food or attractants for illegal purposes, nor intentionally or recklessly placing themselves or their pet in a situation likely to necessitate the use of lethal force.

The legislation seeks to address a proliferating rate of interaction between humans and Florida’s black bear population. The Florida black bear, once classified as a threatened species, has seen a substantial recovery due to stringent conservation efforts. However, as both human and bear populations expand, encounters have become more frequent, particularly in residential areas.

“A person is not subject to any administrative, civil, or criminal penalty for taking a bear with lethal force if … the person reasonably believed that his or her action was necessary to avoid an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or herself or to another, an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to a pet, or substantial damage to a dwelling,” the bill states.

This legislation comes in response to a marked increase in human-bear conflicts. Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) data shows that between 2009 and 2018, an average of 38 bears were euthanized annually due to safety concerns, often linked to bears seeking out unsecured garbage or other human-provided food sources. In 2022 alone, FWC received nearly 6,000 calls related to bears, with over a third classified as core complaints involving potential threats to public safety.

Despite these challenges, relocation efforts for problematic bears have proven largely ineffective. FWC has found that most relocated bears do not remain in their new locations and often resume conflict behaviors.

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