COLLIER COUNTY — Two bears described as “enormous” broke into the screened porch of a 90-year-old East Naples woman’s home Tuesday morning, tearing through screens and plastic windows, and dislodging metal panels.
Lois Martin, who slept through the incident, was concerned when she learned of her nocturnal visitors.
“I had chicken bones in my garbage,” she said. “I’m sure that’s what they were going for.”
This was only the most recent incursion by bears at Marco Shores Estates, a 55 and older mobile home community off Manatee Road, between U.S. 41 East and Collier Boulevard. There have been so many in recent months that just last week biologist administrator Dan Mitchell of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spoke to residents in their community center, giving them tips on how to make their neighborhood less hospitable to bears.
“They’ve gone down the street at night, knocking over the cans,” said John DeLorenzo, who lives next door to Martin. “One night there were 30 garbage cans all knocked down, with garbage strewed all over the street.”
“What’s it going to take? Are we going to have to wait until someone gets mauled or killed before anything happens?” DeLorenzo asked.
Teresa DeLorenzo, John’s daughter, heard the commotion outside her bedroom window early Tuesday and looked out into the moonlit scene in time to see the marauding bears head off into the night.
“I’d say they were over 400 pounds,” DeLorenzo said. “They were huge.”
Jan Altheide, the Marco Shores Estates office administrator, said bears have gone through screened enclosures in the community four of five times.
“The trash is the problem,” Altheide said. “The bears are following their noses. They’re not aggressive — they don’t want to break into people’s homes. They’re just being bears.”
John DeLorenzo said the community has asked Waste Management for later garbage pickups in the morning, so garbage cans will not have to be left out overnight.
FWC spokesperson Carli Segelson said not putting garbage cans in a secure area is the most likely attractor for bears. She said it is easier to convince humans to change their habits than it is to attempt to change the bears’ natural instincts.
“Even if we successfully remove a bear — and they will travel long distances to come home — if there are still attractants, other bears will come,” she said.
The FWC has no plans to attempt to trap or remove any bears from the East Naples area, including Marco Shores, she said. The FWC recommends that anyone who encounters a bear at close range remain standing, back up slowly and speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice.