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It’s foraging time for bears, so use caution and report sightings to FWC
By Pat Andrews
posted Oct 8, 2013 - 2:01:38pm
As the human population spreads in West Volusia, encounters between humans and wildlife have become more common. Black-bear sightings — whether it’s a cub in a tree, a bear using a backyard as a path, or a bear checking out the trash bins at Stetson University in DeLand — have been reported in The Beacon in recent years.
The likelihood of spotting a bear increases this time of year.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to reduce close encounters between humans and bears, but when bears are sighted, the FWC wants to know about it.
The FWC asks that bear sightings be reported at its website. Biologists are particularly interested in sightings of female bears with cubs to help update maps of bear populations.
Why are sightings more common this time of year?
“In fall, the world is an all-you-can-eat buffet for Florida black bears. Programmed to pack in extra calories before winter, bears can smell food a mile away and will eat almost anything. Bears may decide an overflowing trash can is easier pickings than searching for acorns and berries,” a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) report notes.
The FWC urges prevention of problem encounters with Florida black bears by securing garbage and by putting out garbage cans the morning of garbage pickup rather than the night before. Using bear-proof cans or dumpsters helps. Tips on bear-resistant trash cans and what to do if you encounter a black bear are available online at www.myFWC.com/bear.
While black bears are generally not aggressive, they can become defensive when approached, and they are big, FWC biologist Brian Scheick said.
Adult males weigh 250 to 400 pounds, and can be as large as 600 pounds. A mother bear can be very protective — and aggressive — in the desire to protect her cubs.
If you encounter a bear at close range, the FWC advises:
• Remain standing upright.
• Speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice.
• Back up slowly toward a secure area, making sure you are leaving the bear a clear escape route.
• Avoid direct eye contact, because bears and other animals may view direct eye contact as aggressive behavior.
• Stop and hold your ground if your movement away seems to irritate instead of calm the bear.
• Don’t make any sudden movements, or run, which can trigger a chase.
• Don’t play dead or climb a tree.
If you should get a photo of mother and cubs, however, the FWC wants it.
Photos and reports will help update information on bear populations, which are concentrated on large public lands, but are sometimes found elsewhere. These other populations have not been well-reported or -documented, Scheick said.
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