620-pound bear captured in Ocala National Forest
The capture of a 620-pound bear in the Ocala National Forest last week reminds Floridians they need to be wary and secure food when spending time in the woods.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Joy Hill says the bear was captured May 20 as it was taking siding off an aluminum shed in an attempt to get secured trash inside. The bear was relocated May 22.
Biologists were able to sedate it for an exam and took hair as a DNA sample, extracted a tooth, gave it a lip tattoo and added a tag to its ear, said Karen Parker, FWC public information coordinator. All of that information is stored in case the animal is caught again.
Parker said another recent case of a nuisance bear involved an 18-month-old that had left its mother and was getting into garbage in Gainesville.
Parker said bears are on the move because of the May-June mating season, and “they are out looking for love.”
Despite the attraction, she warned: “Do not feed the bears.”
“First, it is illegal to feed bears, and the bear is the one who always pays in the end,” Parker said.
A bear's diet is 85 percent plant material and includes palmetto plants, acorns and carrion. However, they are opportunistic hunters.
“Bears have a very strong sense of smell, much like dogs, and they are opportunistic,” Parker said. “If it's there, they'll chomp on it.”
“They won't expend a lot of energy hunting,” Parker said.
Advice from the agency includes cleaning barbecue grills because the remains can attract bears. People also need to be careful with feeding pets outside and to remember to bring the food inside afterward. Bears are also known to eat seed from bird feeders.
Parker also suggests that people who have beehives surround them with an electric fence.
Wildlife officials estimate there are 3,500 black bears in Florida, compared to only 300 in the 1970s.
Hill says this was the largest bear captured, but the largest documented black bear was a 624-pounder that was struck and killed by a car in Naples several years ago.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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