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Florida lawmaker wants to protect mama bears

The bill is part of the continuing reaction to a black-bear hunt in October 2015 in which 304 bears were killed.
FILE - On this May 6, 2014 file photo, a black bear perches on a tree in Panama City, Fla. With Florida's black bears rebounding from near extinction, clashes with humans are on the rise, and the state is considering a limited hunting season as part of the solution. (AP Photo/News Herald, Andrew Wardlow, File) ORG XMIT: FLPAN101 ORG XMIT: T1502041445110913
FILE - On this May 6, 2014 file photo, a black bear perches on a tree in Panama City, Fla. With Florida's black bears rebounding from near extinction, clashes with humans are on the rise, and the state is considering a limited hunting season as part of the solution. (AP Photo/News Herald, Andrew Wardlow, File) ORG XMIT: FLPAN101 ORG XMIT: T1502041445110913
Published Dec. 7, 2018

Black bears whose cubs weigh less than 100 pounds would be off-limits if the state conducts bear hunts in the future, under a measure revived by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando.

Stewart's proposal (SB 134), filed for the 2019 legislative session which begins in March, also would make the unlawful harvesting of saw palmetto berries on state lands a second-degree misdemeanor.

The berries are a staple of bear diets. Stewart has filed similar measures for the past two years.

The Democrat's proposals are part of the continuing reaction to a black-bear hunt in October 2015 in which 304 bears were killed. The hunt was the first in the state in two decades. Hunt supporters have argued that hunting is one way to manage bear populations and to reduce potentially dangerous bear-human interactions.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has voted against holding subsequent hunts. A delay was approved in 2017 to allow staff members to complete an ongoing 10-year bear management plan in the next year or two.