On August 04, 2013 officers from DeFuniak Springs Police responded to the area of 1911 Walton Road in reference to a bear. When the officers arrived the bear displayed no aggression; therefore officers monitored the situation to ensure there were no indications that anyone or the bear would likely be harmed. Members from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) were also notified.
Since this time officers have responded to more sightings including the Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store located on Highway 90 west. Over the last few days members from DeFuniak Springs Police have communicated with FWC including their Biologist about potential public safety concerns.
“DeFuniak Springs Police have stressed their concerns to members of FWC recommending the relocating of the animal” said Mark A. Weeks. Biologist from FWC say trapping and removing one bear from an ecological place creates a void that another bear could move into and thus problems will continue. “We will continue to work close with FWC for a resolution that assures us our citizens are safe”, said Chief Mark A. Weeks.
Biologist say the best approach to solving bear issues faced by our community are to secure the attractant that initially brings in the bears. Household garbage is extremely high in calories, and provides bears with a large caloric reward for very little effort. Black bears do not view humans or pets as food items, but can and will learn to associate humans with food if they are continually rewarded with food from garbage cans, dumpsters, and bird feeders. Once they lose their natural fear of humans and learn to treat them as a food source, they can become a nuisance and a hazard. Trapping and removal of bears by FWC is a last resort; it does not become a viable option until after every effort has been made to secure the attractants, because removing one bear from an ecological niche creates a void that another bear could move into and thus problems will continue.
The Biologist also stated, “getting in front of this situation before it becomes a nuisance issue resulting in garbage-habituated bears is the number one most effective approach to managing and mitigating human-wildlife conflict”. FWC frequently works with local homeowner’s associations and communities to reach out to and educate residents about bears and conflict-reduction strategies. They do this by making presentations in person, going door-to-door, and asking that residents who are willing and able to talk to their neighbors to do so and distribute bear literature that not only talks about ways to secure garbage, but also talks about what to do if you see a bear and the importance of scaring bears away so that they do not begin to feel comfortable around humans”.
Lieutenant Tilman Mears stated, “we will keep our citizens informed on further developments on our visiting bear. Please remember how important it is to report any sighting of bears to your local law enforcement agency. Keeping track of the location could be of importance especially in residential areas or municipalities. If the bear is staying in one specific area this could mean the bear is becoming a nuisance and/or a hazard to humans. This will prompt FWC to trap and relocate the animal”.
Lieutenant Tilman Mears
Criminal Investigations Division Commander