ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s a bill focusing on the handling of wildlife, still yet to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

What You Need To Know

  • A bear was found dead in an Apopka homeowner's front yard 

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) report shows a bullet wound in the bear's lung

  • House Bill 87, which would allow people to shoot at a bear in an act of self defense, still has not been signed into law by the governor

House Bill 87 would allow people to shoot at a bear in an act of self defense.

Currently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is investigating an incident where a bear was shot in Apopka and found dead in someone’s front yard.

The FWC can’t go in to much detail, since it is an ongoing investigation. Seeing a bear in Apopka, near the Wekiwa Springs State Park, is not a rare occurrence.

At this time, it’s unclear of the exact location where the bear was shot, but what is clear is that the bear walked until it couldn’t anymore.

Bill Lueckfeld has two types of neighbors. The human kind, and the four-legged ones. He and his neighbors enjoy spotting them in their Foxboro Estates community located in Apopka.

Unfortunately, when Lueckfeld went to walk his dog at night, he stumbled upon a dead bear in his front yard.

“Was laying here,” Lueckfeld said, pointing at a portion of his front yard. “His feet were laying this way, tail down here, head up here.”

A nearly 500-pound bear, that according to the FWC, found an entry wound through its left torso and a bullet wound in a lung.

An initial search for a bullet was done in Lueckfeld’s front yard.

“She had a metal detector, that she was waving it on one side,” Lueckfeld said, recalling the night FWC came to his home. “Then they flipped him over, she (searched) him again and went off at the neck portion.”

It’s unknown at this time how far the bear traveled with the wound, or the circumstances of why it was shot.

When HB 87 was being discussed during the legislative session, Republican State Rep. David Smith wasn’t a fan of it then, calling it, “the worst bill he had ever seen.”

He’s still not a fan of it now, expressing to DeSantis’ office numerous times to veto the bill — not just to protect the state’s wildlife, but human life as well.

“Parents, don’t let your children go out and play in your neighbors’ backyard, or cut through a yard or go through a hedge,” Smith, of District 38, said. “If someone sees bushes rustling and thinks it might be a bear and takes a shot at it, I am so fearful.”

As the bill moved through the legislature, Republican Rep. Jason Shoaf compared the bill to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Down the road from the Lueckfeld’s in Apopka is Chuck O’Neil, whose home backs up to the Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Bears may be his home’s most frequent visitor, and he too worries about the bears, his neighbors, and even his own safety if HB 87 passes.

“Big concern of mine that someone would pop off a shot at one of the bears in my backyard,” O’Neil said, who enjoys the videos his Ring camera captures of bears. “I don’t want a bullet through my window.”

According to data from the FWC, the bear population in Central Florida is less than 1,500, and only about 4,000 across the state.