WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — As temperatures drop, the probability of bear activity in residential areas goes up.
Walton County resident Donna DonFrancesco said that she saw a black bear in her yard in Grayton Beach last week at 4 p.m., rummaging around in broad daylight, which is unusual since black bears are nocturnal.
DonFrancesco added that about a month ago a black bear charged one of her neighbors and killed her dog. DonFrancesco said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigated the event but could not find the bear.
Officials say the Florida black bears native to this area are preparing for winter, looking for food often easiest found, literally, in our backyards.
“What happens during the fall season is the bears are looking to pack on as many calories as they possibly can. We’re talking like 20,000 calories a day,” said Karen Parker, FWC public information coordinator. “But what they’re doing is they’re going around looking to see if they can find easy food.
“Like say how many acorns does it take to make up a bag of dog food,” she added. “You would need a lot of acorns to make up for that type of situation.”
In 2015, the FWC estimated there to be an average of 1,060 bears living in the East Panhandle, which includes Bay County.
They also estimated an average of 120 bears living in the greater Eglin area near Walton County.
Bear sightings from News 13 viewers go back to August.
“If you do see a bear in your backyard the best thing you can do is go back into your house,” Parker said. “And if it’s safe you can scare the bear away.”
You can scare a bear away by smashing pots and pans together, turning on lights, using an air horn or activating a sprinkler system if possible. But Parker said you should not approach.
“What we’re trying to do is have the bears realize that there’s no more food in this area and then they’ll go away,” Parker said.
Bears can smell food from over a mile away. Parker said the best way to prevent bears entering your yard is to bring in all pet food overnight, pick up fruit from any fruit trees, thoroughly clean any grills.
It is illegal in Florida to feed bears.
For more information visit the FWC website.