News Releases

FWC to Middleburg residents: Be 'bear aware'

News Release

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received several reports about a black bear in Middleburg.

A 150-pound female bear was spotted near Live Oak Lane June 25.  The bear was also seen three weeks ago near Pinto Lane. FWC law enforcement officers and biologists are monitoring the situation closely but do need the public's assistance.

"We want to eliminate the reason why the bear is in these neighborhoods. If Middleburg residents will temporarily remove their bird feeders, we are hoping the bear will move on," said Allan Hallman, FWC wildlife biologist.

"This bear was seen knocking over bird feeders," Hallman said. "Three weeks ago, her activities resulted in some property damage. She destroyed several feeders, looking for the high-calorie bird seed."

Properly storing or securing garbage and other attractants such as bird feeders is a proven method of discouraging bears.  Bird feeders and grills should be stored in a secure place, such as a garage or a sturdy shed. Garbage can be placed outside on the morning of pickup rather than the night before. People can encourage their neighbors, community or local government to use bear-resistant trash containers or dumpsters.

The most important thing to remember is do not feed the bear.

"Just because a bear is seen, that doesn't mean there's a problem or it's a threat to your safety," Hallman said. "Problems arise when bears have access to unnatural food sources, and bears learn very quickly to associate people with food. Once a bear loses its fear of people, it is at an increased risk of being killed, either because of traffic, poaching or management action."

Relocating the bear is not a good option, because there are few places to relocate bears where they will not encounter people and where there are no other bears already.

"A relocated bear rarely stays where we put it, which can result in the bear crossing unfamiliar territory and busy roads, creating a danger for itself and motorists," Hallman said.  "And if the bear does stay, it can become a problem for another neighborhood in the new location."

If the bear is threatening the safety of humans, pets or livestock or is causing property damage, it should be reported to the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

If residents see a black bear, they should remain calm. Often the bear is simply passing through the area.

"Don't run away. Back up calmly towards a building or vehicle and get inside," Hallman said. "If you have children or pets, bring them inside. You also can encourage the bear to leave. From a safe location, bang pots and pans, or blow an air horn or whistle. The more stressful a bear's encounter with you, the less likely it is to come back."

Residents can find out more about black bears at MyFWC.com/Bear.



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