Hernando County, Florida -- Recently, Hernando Sheriff's officials say a bear was spotted near Alderwood Street in the Spring Hill area.
While there is a known bear population exists along the coast, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are alerting residents on how to avoid attracting bears near homes.
"Florida black bears are normally shy creatures that avoid people. Fortunately, the avoidance behavior that bears typically exhibit helps both bears and people coexist without much fanfare," said Chad Allison, district biologist and bear specialist with the FWC.
"If you come face-to-face with a bear, don't panic, don't look it in the eye, don't turn your back and run. Just move away slowly on an angle, making sure that the animal has an escape route. Bears are pretty calm animals and not looking to cause trouble," Allison added.
Florida black bears are active year-round, opportunistically foraging wherever they can find food.
"However," Allison warned, "the normal behavior of bears can be short-circuited if people provide these animals with the opportunity to forage in and around their neighborhood."
When a bear learns there is easy access to food in a human neighborhood, often in unsecured trash, bird feeders or pet food left outside, it is apt to return repeatedly. In fact, once a successful pattern of securing regular meals in a human neighborhood has been established, the bear may learn that humans are not to be feared and that being near them has its rewards.
A bear that chronically returns to homes is not typically relocated because chances are high that the animal will continue to repeat the behavior no matter where it is. Worse, when cubs learn these feeding habits from their mother, they too, sadly, become victims of feeding opportunities they should not have - opportunities that put their lives in danger when human-bear conflicts arise.
The FWC recommends the following steps to prevent human-bear conflicts:
- Clean barbecue grills and store them in a locked, secure place
- Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant
- Protect gardens, apiaries, compost and livestock with electric fencing
- Pick ripe fruit from trees, and remove fallen fruit from the ground
- Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute ordinances on keeping foods secure that would attract wildlife
Bears seen foraging in trash, pet food or other attractants, or bears that exhibit other destructive behavior, should be reported immediately to the FWC by calling the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or, during regular working hours, the FWC's Lakeland Regional office at 863-648-3200.
Hernando County Sheriff's Office and FWC