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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – As the state tries to reduce dangerous interactions between bears and humans, lawmakers have given final approval to a bill that would change the penalties for feeding wildlife.

The Senate on Friday unanimously approved the bill (HB 7021), which passed the House earlier and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, and Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, comes as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission prepares to give formal approval to a black bear hunt this fall — the first such hunt in two decades.

The hunt stems from interactions between bears and humans in some parts of the state, with wildlife officials saying a major cause of the problem is residents leaving out garbage that attracts bears.

The bill, in part, would increase penalties for people charged a fourth time with feeding bears and alligators not in captivity. The charge would be a third-degree felony.

Currently, a fourth offense of illegally feeding wildlife within a 10-year period is a first-degree misdemeanor.

“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”

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