Our reckless behavior puts bears at risk
It’s hard not to notice the staggering recent increase in bear sightings in Lake County and in other communities bordering the Ocala National Forest.
In late January, a black bear sighting near Mount Dora High School put the campus on lockdown. In mid-January, wildlife officers trapped and killed a 740-pound bear that had been roaming Seminole County neighborhoods.
In December, a mother bear and cub were strolling along Lady Lake Boulevard.
Resident Randa Robinson-Anderson said the bears were likely foraging for food in area trash cans.
In November, Eustis resident Krystal Long’s dachshund named Daisy received stitches and staples in its back after an encounter with a bear.
“The residents have to stop feeding the bears,”
And, alarmingly, in October a Lady Lake man killed a 400- to 500-pound black bear that had ripped its way through metal windows in his screened-in lanai, likely to get at a bowl of dog food the owner had left in the enclosure.
“remember that the county had to force this person to put the food inside, too late the bear had already become accustom to the quick food!”
State lawmakers have certainly noticed and are taking aggressive action.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee last Tuesday agreed to support a bill that would make it a felony for people caught feeding bears and alligators
a fourth time but only a non-criminal violation for those caught doing it the first time.
The media has been reporting on this feeding of our wild life for years, if people are still feeding them it is a criminal violation against the poor wildlife and should be treated as so from now on!
The idea is to send a strong message to first time offenders and educate them, but to crack down hard on those who knowingly feed bears time and again.
Why is this such a big deal?
State wildlife officials say an increase in the bear population is only partly to blame for the striking number of human/bear confrontations over the last couple of years.
The rest of the blame goes to people who leave food out for these animals. Bears range far and wide in search of food, and they will stick around even very populous areas if they find it. So the key to reducing these confrontations is to simply to eliminate food sources that attract bears.
If this doesn’t work, state wildlife officials are considering bringing back bear hunts to thin the population. Last week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission directed its staff to develop plans for a hunt, perhaps as soon as the fall.
No one wants this.
Unfortunately, unless we, the public, do our part to avoid the bears, this is their fate.
We encourage all Lake County residents to do the responsible thing: heed the calls of wildlife officials to leave the bears in peace.