Florida wildlife officials warn more black bear sightings expected during this season

You may see a potential increase in black bear sightings this season. 

During this time of year, more bears are spotted in suburban and urban areas, including in Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and other portions of Florida, as juvenile bears start to leave their mother's home in search of new locations to settle down, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC).

"Juvenile or yearling bears – between the ages of 1½ -2½ – start dispersing in spring and summer each year," FWC’s Bear Management Program Coordinator, Mike Orlando, said in a press release. "The best thing people can do if they see a bear in an unexpected area is to give them plenty of space and to never approach or feed them and they will typically move along on their own."

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Though you may see the curious creature in unexpected places, like your residential neighborhood, wildlife officials said it should not cause for alarm. It is important, however, for residents to secure items such as food and garbage, pet food and bird feeders, which could attract a bear.

The FWC said the black bear is not typically aggressive, but will defend itself if it feels threatened.

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It's also important to keep dogs close when walking them and to be aware of your surroundings, to prevent a problem with the wild animal. 

If you are having an issue with a bear, spot one that is injured or dead, or know of someone feeding them, you're asked to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).