Sightings of black bears up in Florida; wildlife officials debate plan

A black bear climbs over a fence after swimming in a Golden Gate Estates family's pool.

NBC-2.com

A black bear climbs over a fence after swimming in a Golden Gate Estates family's pool.

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Wildlife officials are trying to figure out how to deal with a burgeoning population of bears in Florida.

The Florida Times-Union reports sightings of bears have been on an uptick. The state received more than 4,000 calls reporting bears last year, up nearly fourfold from a decade earlier.

A rebound in the American black bear population has been recorded since the animal was listed as threatened in the 1970s.

The state is now proposing a new plan to manage the bear population. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is accepting online suggestions on its proposal through Jan. 10.

In a series of public meetings on the plan, some have called for allowing the hunting of black bears, but the proposal does not include such language.

Student videos teach Floridians to be ‘bear smart’

The challenge to high school students was unusual: Produce a one-minute video encouraging people to conserve Florida black bears and take appropriate precautions when living around bears. The response was enthusiastic: Individuals and media classes from 10 high schools applied their creative thinking to the conservation of Florida black bears, which have made a comeback from about 300 in the 1970s to about 3,000 today.

Students submitted 17 videos they scripted, filmed and edited for the Florida Black Bear Public Service Announcement contest sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Today, the FWC announces the grand prize winner of the PSA contest. It is Justin Burt, a student at Lawton Chiles High School in Tallahassee. His “Be Bear Aware” video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/MyFWCsocial.

“We looked to high school students as a great source of creativity to get out the message about Florida black bears,” said Dave Telesco, the FWC’s bear management program coordinator. “Students rose to the occasion and produced 17 ‘bear smart’ videos for our PSA contest. The FWC is pleased that so many young people got involved and worked hard to teach Floridians how to conserve and be safe around black bears,” Telesco said.

For more information about Florida black bears, visit MyFWC.com/Bear.

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