HIGHLANDS COUNTY, Fla. - On Saturday, Tiffiny Contreras recorded a Florida black bear walking around her Highlands County neighborhood. A bear she says keeps showing up over and over in search of food.
“He was not aggressive, he just took off and ran,” Contreras said. “But, it was still intimidating cause it was right in our front yard. He's circling the block, basically, cause I guess he's looking for food.”
Contreras said she has no problem co-existing with the bear. But, she is worried about the safety of her family and the bear. She’s complained to the county and wildlife officials about the nuisance bear.
“We really want them to just catch it and put it in a safe place where the bear don't get hurt, and we don't get hurt,” Contreras said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, humans and bears have to learn to live together.
“It is easy to live in harmony with bears and save their lives by simply securing the temptation of trash and other attractants. There are several ways to do this: get volunteers to build a caddy (or shed) to protect your garbage cans; secure your trash within a bear-resistant container; put up an electric fence around livestock or beeyards."
FWC officials say once a bear finds a food source, supplied by humans, it’s hard to keep the bears away.
Once bears lose their natural fear of people, often due to access to food attractants, there is often little hope to make the bear wild again. These habituated and food conditioned bears are often killed, either by vehicle collisions, illegal shooting, or as a result of bear management actions to keep the community safe.
Unfortunately, relocating bears is often not feasible. Areas large and remote enough to move bears where they won't encounter people are rare in Florida. Additionally, relocated bears typically leave the new area, either to return to their original home or to leave an area already occupied by other bears. Some bears will wander through unfamiliar areas and cross busy roads, creating a danger to the bear and to motorists.
Contreras said the county used to pick up their trash twice a week. Now, she says the county only picks up trash on Friday. Contreras said she has noticed with the new schedule she is seeing more and more bears tipping over trash cans.
“Most of us put the garbage out the night before. I don’t leave food out. We really need the county to come and start picking up the garbage at least twice a week so we don't have as much garbage to deal with during the week,” Contreras said. “Even on the day of, or the night before, he’s (the bear) going in garbage, he's eating out of our garbage.”