How to handle bear encounters
It’s that time of year again: Bear breeding season, when bears may travel more widely in search of a mate.
Already, Polk County has had two separate black bear sightings in two days.
Both animals were spotted in Lakeland, near Lakeland Linder International Airport, according to a Facebook post from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The news release says that the PCSO received a call on Sunday and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took a call the following day. A picture of that latter animal, standing staring at the camera in a wooded area, is on the post.
The sheriff’s office shared some advice from the FWC if you encounter one of these guys.
First and foremost, keep a safe distance and do not approach the animal.
Also: Keep “attractants” such as garbage as well as all food, including pet food and bird seed, secured.
“During this time of the year sightings are not uncommon, as juvenile bears are leaving the family unit and looking to establish an area of their own,” reads the warning. “If you do encounter a bear at close range, do not run. Remain standing upright, speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice, and back up slowly while leaving the bear with a clear escape route.”
In the “Cheat Sheet” section, the FWC says since the 1980s, due to “urban sprawl,” the black bear population is ever expanding. There are currently approximately 4,050 of them in Florida.
On the PCSO’s page, some cheeky Facebook users managed to use humor to diffuse any anxiety about sightings close to home.
“Nothing like a furry visitor,” wrote one.
“It’s just YOGI, looking for picnic baskets,” referencing the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character on “The Yogi Bear Show.”
“In other words, wear diapers, cause if you see on, you will thank me later.”