They are back and could have already paid a visit to your neighborhood. Florida Black Bear sightings are becoming more widespread around Bay County and other parts of the panhandle. In this Problem Solver report we look at how their numbers are going up and what you can do about bears.
Woods are not the only place in the Panhandle you will find black bears. They could wind up as close as your own back yard. Last fall, I took pictures of one adult bear who paid a visit to our neighborhood…not too far from the backdoor of our home. In the past couple of weeks, we have already had three more bear visits.
Bear sightings are on the rise in Florida particularly here in the panhandle. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission office in Bay County gets calls about bears just about every day and has received three ties the number of calls. According to Stan Kirkland of the FWC, "we got 33 calls in 2008...of course we still have three months to go this year.. We are already up over a hundred calls just here in bay county alone." Kirkland says the state of Florida received 4,000 bear sighting calls last year. The Bay County office covers 16 counties in the panhandle.
The FWC says Santa Rosa County has been the most active this year with 200 calls from residents. The bears are going for food. Wildlife Officials say one thing that occurs in the fall every year is called hyperphagia...when bears have a tremendous appetite. Kirkland says they consume as many as 25,000 calories a day. He also says, "If you know you have got bears coming around lock your garbage can. Either put it behind doors where the bear can't get to it or either go to a hardware store…spend 11 or 12 dollars on a couple of clips to secure your garbage can to keep them out of it."
Stan Kirkland says trying to make your garbage can "bear-proof" with bungee cords simply will not work. One of my neighbors tried that and a bear still had no trouble taking the top of the can off.
The FWC has delisted black bears as a threatened species, but, they are still protected by the state.