FWC removes dangerous bear from the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area campsite
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists working with the U.S. Forest Service captured a bear exhibiting dangerous behavior at a campsite in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area. The FWC captured the bear in response to multiple reports of a bear entering tents.
After the U.S. Forest Service closed the wilderness area, the FWC set up an empty tent and trap. The same bear came to the tent twice and showed no hesitation when entering the tent. The male bear was captured by the FWC and, because the bear posed a threat to human safety, it was humanely killed.
One of the most recent events to occur at the campsite was in late January when a group of campers set up their tents with no food, toiletries or other attractants inside. Following BearWise guidelines, the group was cooking dinner approximately 50 yards from their campsite when a bear entered their tent.
“These people were doing exactly what they needed to do to not draw bears to their campsite,” said FWC bear biologist Mike Orlando. “However, because some people camping in the area previously did not follow these guidelines, this bear associated tents as an easy place to find a meal, which could have resulted in a very dangerous situation for campers.”
It is important that people recreating in bear county follow these steps to reducing conflicts with bears:
- Are bears active in this area? Talk with a local park ranger, concessioner or facility manager and see if bears have been active in the area recently. Remember, bears can be found anywhere in Florida.
- Make some noise. Wild black bears typically avoid people, but it is best to be safe and make noise when in bear country to scare off any bears in the area.
- Eliminate attractants. Secure anything that has a scent, including food, toothpaste, deodorant, bug repellent, sunscreen and other items with strong scents. Bag your food in airtight, odor containing bags. Store the food in a bag or other container away from the campsite. Hang it at least 10 feet above the ground and four feet from the tree or pole to which you attached it. Burn off food residue on outdoor grills.
- Keep it separated. Where you cook and eat, where you sleep, and where you store food and other scented items should be separated from each other.
- Carry bear spray.
- Keep dogs secured or on a leash.
“If people do not change their behavior, it is likely we will have this situation again,” said Orlando.
For more information on how to live and recreate in bear country, visit MyFWC.com/Bear.