A Surprise Face to Face Meeting

Who Knew This is Bear Country?

Florida Black BearCredit: BoomerBill

I've blissfully ignored for years that Central Florida is bear country.  Turning a blind eye to our bear neighbors ended this morning, but not by choice.  I awoke to the sound of roof replacement a few doors down.  The noise wasn't too bad so I opened the slider to the back porch.  As I was eating breakfast before heading to work I heard an odd creaking noise.  The creaking sounded unrelated to the roof activities down the street.  I couldn't figure it out until I walked out on the back pool deck to investigate and saw a bear pushing on my pool screen.  He was standing up and pushing.  We saw each other and both moved back.  I was extremely glad that he moved away from me instead of toward me!

I live in a northwest suburb of Orlando.  The house is in a good-sized, well wooded subdivision.  The houses in the neighborhood were built mostly in the 70's and early 80's, and most of the trees were preserved.  A large state park exists about a mile and a half away.  I've read accounts of bears in the area but had never actually seen one outside the state park.  A black bear mauled a woman in an adjacent town recently,[1] so I know not all the bears are harmless.

When I went outside to tell the neighbors of the animal sighting, folks were already in the street talking about our new friend.  The fellow across the street couldn't get to his truck because the bear was squatting down and munching on some trash between the house and his truck.  Apparently, the bear is a frequent visitor to our subdivision.  I'm glad I know that now!

My backyard bear was not overtly threatening.  He wanted to be left alone.  Perhaps he would have been more threatening if I approached.  In any event, I had no wish to test the limits of the bear's nonthreatening nature.  We both shared a common interest in avoiding contact.

What to Do?

We called the county animal control agency, who referred us over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  The Commission representative on the phone said to contact them again if the bear stays around for a couple weeks.  If the bear isn't exhibiting any kind of threat, the Commission isn't inclined to do anything about him ambling through or otherwise camping out in the neighborhood.  They suggested leaving out trash cans as late as possible prior to pick up and carrying an air horn when taking a walk.  They advised trying to scare the bear with noise.[2]  Otherwise, leave the bear alone so that he will leave you alone.

I am curious what the bear found fascinating about my pool screen enclosure.  Maybe the pool looked inviting.  Thank goodness he was only pushing on the screen instead of barreling through without testing!  My heart rate was high enough from the close proximity.  Having a large animal jumping through the screen would have sent me over the edge.

Our four-legged friends need ample space to wander and roam without intruding on our FFWCC BrochureCredit: BoomerBillsuburban existence.  We sometimes forget about our natural environment while living in our enclaves.  My new bear friend shows that we share the earth with others and must be mindful of sharing.

Post Script

After reporting the backyard bear to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, they mailed a cool brochure called "A Guide to Living in Bear Country."[3]  I'll read it after I hitch up the wagon.  I wonder if the bears get Florida Resident discounts at Disney?  Probably not if they don't carry proper ID's.

Read More about Black Bears

Black Bear: North America's Bear
Amazon Price: $10.95 $8.50 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 27, 2014)