Florida House acts to stiffen penalties on bear poaching


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida House moved unanimously Wednesday to increase the penalties for killing black bears, a once-threatened species.

While bears remain off limits to hunters, wildlife advocates have pushed for stiffer penalties against poaching. As it stands, the penalties for hunting turkeys and deer out of season is more severe than killing a bear.

At one time, the number of black bears in Florida had dropped into the low hundreds, prompting the listing of the animal as a threatened species. Now, there are more than 4,000 of the animals statewide.

If the state Senate joins the House in approving the measure, it will then be up to Gov. Ron DeSantis to decide if he will allow the minimum fine for bear poaching at $750 — instead of the maximum $500 specified under current law. Hunting licenses could be suspended for three years, as opposed to the current yearlong maximum.