SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — Philippe Park in Pinellas County is reopening at noon on Thursday after officials say the black bear that prompted the closure on Tuesday was spotted miles away.
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County officials previously said the park would be closed through Friday, but it's reopening early after the bear that FWC is tracking was spotted away from the park.
FWC believes the bear the same one they've been following from Hernando County.
Over the weekend, FWC believes the same bear was caught on ring security camera footage in a Palm Harbor neighborhood.
“Never heard of a black bear being here," said Sue Sanford who lives nearby.
While it is rare, Florida Fish and Wildlife say they do get reports of the occasional wandering black bear in late May and early June in populated urban areas. Last year, the FWC received almost 6,000 bear-related calls statewide.
"The transient bears involved are usually around 18 months old and weigh in around 150lbs. The bears have just become independent from their mothers and as they look for a new place to live and how to handle life on their own, they can end up in areas they shouldn’t be," FWC said.
“I hope they save him, I hope they save him and they capture him and put him somewhere where he safe. The picture I saw looked like it was a young cub," said Sanford.
"Bears are typically shy and try to avoid people, but are wild animals and should never be approached or fed. Because they are often covering miles a day on their journey, a trapping effort is not typically an option as they are not spending much time in any one place. The bears most often are able to find their way out safely from even the most populous places," Sanford added.
Chris Wolfe took his mom to Philippe Tuesday only to be turned away.
“Nothing surprises me in Florida," said Wolfe.
FWC advises people to leave the bears alone and give them some space to pass through. The agency says transient bears have been spotted in just about every major city in Florida, including Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami.
“Pretty much I was under the understanding that as with all wildlife if you’re not going to try to harm them, and you do your own thing, it’s when people try to mess with them or feed them stuff, like, that that can cause trouble," Wolfe said.
For more information on bears in Florida, click here.