Seminole County residents told to be 'bear aware' after woman claims she was bitten

There's been a lot of talk about bears recently since a woman living in Seminole County claims she might have been bitten or scratched by a bear while letting her dog out late at night without a leash.

The incident now reinforcing the importance of being bear aware.

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It's that time of year as the season starts to change that bears are out searching for more food and typically have their cubs in tow.

Stephanie Williams is the Zoo Director at the Central Florida Zoo where two bears were rehomed after getting too close to humans.

"They have a great sense of smell," Williams said. "You want to make sure that if you have trash and it's outside that you keep it in a secure container they cannot get into."

Bears are strong and determined to get a quick and easy meal and she said they are not naturally aggressive. But like any animal that feels threatened or startled, they will defend themselves even against a barking dog.

"You want to be sure you can recall your dog," she said. "You want them to come back to you. Especially if they're off that leash. If you can and your dog is small enough – go ahead and pick up your dog and bring it with you."

She said the next step is to back away slowly and show that you're moving out of the area.

But if the bear starts to follow you, she said make your presence known.

"You want to make sure that you're being assertive and loud," Williams said. "You can be loud. You can talk to the bear. You want to make sure that you're trying to make yourself as big as possible."

She said we can all work to prevent these close encounters if we take the necessary steps to be more bear aware.