Bear poaching bill goes to Gov. DeSantis

Stock image of a black bear. (Pixlr)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A proposal to impose stiffer fines for killing black bears out of season is headed to the governor.

The House on Thursday unanimously approved a bill (HB 327) that stems, at least in part, from bears being illegally killed for their gallbladders. The Senate also approved the measure Wednesday, meaning it is now ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for consideration.

Bear bile, secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, can bring in hundreds or thousands of dollars on the black market, where it is promoted as a cure for numerous ills.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, and Rep. David Smith, R-Winter Springs, was pushed by Bear Warriors United, based in Seminole County, and has the support of the Humane Society of the United States.

The proposal would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to kill a bear or possess a freshly killed bear during a closed season, up from a second-degree misdemeanor, increasing fines.

Also, the bill would require the forfeiture of any Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission licenses or permits for three years for a violation. A subsequent offense would make the violator permanently ineligible for any commission license or permit. The forfeiture of a license could cross state lines through reciprocity agreements with 47 other states, Wright said.