Florida Legislation Banning Bear Hunting Dies in Committee

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In Florida, legislation sponsored by Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) that would have removed scientific wildlife management from the control of biologists and would have banned the taking of bears died in committee. Senate Bill 156 would have prevented anyone taking a bear with a cub that weighed 100 pounds or less. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), female adult bear’s average weight is about 125 pounds, making it highly likely that a hunter who took a bear in this weight range would have been penalized.

In 2016, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission paused plans to have a hunting season for bears after anti-hunting groups pressured both commissioners and legislators. SB 156 would have set a precedent by removing the management authority from the commission. The commission was created to make scientific decisions regarding wildlife, and Senate Bill 156 undermined that process and politicized wildlife decision making. 

Because many adult bears are in the 100-pound range, the 100-pound weight limit for cubs is especially problematic, leading most hunters to avoid bear hunting, which was the intention of the bill’s author. Under Senate Bill 156, hunters that chose to hunt ran the risk of being cited because of confusion over whether the hunter was looking at two adult bears, or a mother and a 98-pound cub. 

Companion legislation, known as House Bill 559, was also introduced in the House of Representatives. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Robert Olszewski (R-Winter Garden), also aimed to prevent anyone from taking a bear with cubs that are 100 pounds or less. HB 559 also failed to make it out of committee.

“Bear hunting is the most effective means and cost-efficient way of managing the growing Florida bear population,” said Luke Houghton, associate director of state services for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is far better equipped to manage bear populations than politicians.”

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.