More Florida black bears than ever are being euthanized when they cause problems around people, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Reports of bears in residential areas are way up, and so are roadkills (mostly in central Florida). Experts say the reason is population growth for both bears and people.
What I hope people get out of this article is this:
“Biologists say euthanasia is a last resort to handle a small percentage of problem bears, but residents can help avoid that outcome by learning how to keep bears away and not providing food for them. ‘Feeding a bear is like signing its death warrant,’ said fish and wildlife commission spokeswoman Joy Hill.”
So basically, this says if you really care about bears, don’t give them handouts or make it easy for them to get food. Otherwise, they could end up being killed for being a “problem bear” — all because they learned that people = food.
Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / R.I. Bridges
As many times as I’ve driven along Alligator Alley and worried I wouldn’t be able to stop in time if a panther ran across the road, I also reassured myself the fence along both sides of the highway and the underpasses would keep panthers away from high-speed danger. But yesterday, a Florida panther was hit and killed by a vehicle yesterday on Alligator Alley, Naples Daily News reports, saying it’s the first time a panther has been killed on that part of the road since the fence went up.
Now I know better and can worry more. Of course, I should have known better. Why would a fence stop an animal like a panther? It might deter a panther, of course, but . . . .
The article says 15 panthers have died so far this year from vehicle collisions, which is a record, and 19 panthers have died overall. Because it’s estimated there are fewer than 100 Florida panthers in the state, that’s a huge percentage of the population to die.
Photo from U.S. Geological Survey
Many people aren’t aware that bears live in Florida. Florida black bears live mainly in and around Florida’s three national forests — Apalachicola in the panhandle, Osceola in the north just south of Georgia and Ocala north of Orlando — and also a few scattered around other smaller forested areas. Unfortunately, busy State Road 40 cuts right through a portion of Ocala Nationl Forest, and roadkill is a huge problem for bears who live there and is a leading cause of death for our bruins.
Now this DeLand-Deltona Beacon article says SR 40 might be designated as a black bear corridor this fall (called “Florida Black Bear Scenic Highway”), if the Florida Department of Transportation agrees. Although the article says naming the 60-mile stretch of road “would involve special efforts to protect the corridor, the beauty, and wildlife along the road,” nothing specific is mentioned about preventing roadkill.
However, maybe if people driving through the forest — say, on their way to Daytona Beach — notice they are driving on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Highway, that will make them slow down and pay more attention to the wildlife and not just speed through to get from Point A to Point B. What do you think?