Friday, August 20, 2010

The bears among us

Jeff Klinkenberg of the St. Petersburg Times has written an absolutely wonderful story about Florida's bears.

The bears - there are about 3,000 in Florida - are in trouble.
"Garbage kills bears," Mike Orlando says. He manages bears in the northeast part of the state for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. More and more he manages people who live near bears. In his territory, which stretches from Orlando to the Osceola National Forest near Jacksonville, bears often share the suburbs with raccoons. Except that raccoons never weigh 600 pounds.
About 11,000 bears roamed Florida when the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. In 1973, the year Mike Orlando was born, the state was down to about 300 bears. Florida finally listed bears as "threatened" about four decades ago and seriously began protecting their habitat. It also slowed down the carnage on roads and banned bear hunting. The population rebounded. Now 3,000 bears try to survive from the Everglades to the Florida Panhandle. Mike Orlando's jurisdiction is home to about a third.

Read the rest of the story here.

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