This is a bumper year for acorns, and with acorns come hungry bears.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission bear biologist Adam Warwick said it is by far the busiest season he has experienced. He said several of the FWC commissioners heading back to Tallahassee after last week’s Apalachicola meeting got to see several bears when passing through Lanark Village.
In Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Lanark Village conversation is abuzz with bear stories. One woman reported seeing six bears in a single oak tree. Warwick said he saw 13 bears on one day while working around Hinton Road in Lanark.
Most comments have been positive, with people telling how beautiful and healthy the bear population has become. Lots of folks are scrambling for their cameras. Cal Allen managed to get photos of male bear that followed in a path blazed by a mama and three cubs in the family’s front yard. “The bear seemed quite unconcerned of my presence except for an occasional glance, most likely happy he could feed in peace without the yapping little Jack Russell,” wrote Allen. “This is the eighth day in a row we have observed these beautiful creatures in our neighborhood.”
Even though it’s warm, bears are stocking up on calories for winter, one reason they are so visible right now. Bears here don’t hibernate but they do become less active in cold weather, especially pregnant females, so they fatten up in preparation.
Problems arise when bears have access to food sources such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, bird seed or even livestock feed. Bears are adaptable and learn quickly to associate people with food. Even though black bears are normally too shy to risk contact with humans, their powerful need to find food can overwhelm this fear.
Bears can smell food from more than a mile away and will travel great distances to track down these tasty smells, often crossing roadways and bridges to do so, which creates risk to both themselves and motorists. Drive carefully, especially at night, and keep alert for bears on the move.
Bears are driven by their need to eat, so anything edible and easily accessible is a potential bear attractant. Presently, garbage is by far the biggest bear attractant in Florida. A fed bear is a dead bear; don’t leave food sources around you home to entice them.