Paige Fry

Floridians are used to having wildlife in their backyards and know that black bears are normally very unaggressive, but due to a recent bear attack people are more scared of them than ever.

Aida Lashinsky, Reporter

This past December, a Florida woman was mauled by a bear in her gated community while taking her dogs for a stroll. The event was described by officials as the “worst reported bear attack on a human in Florida history.”

The female bear that had attacked the woman was captured, and it was suggested that she had felt threatened for her three cubs and in result reacted aggressively in defense. It was concluded that the woman who was attacked had done nothing intentional to provoke the bear.

It is very uncommon that black bears would attack a human, and more bear-human conflicts result in a dead or injured bear rather than a dead or injured human.

Over time, the development of gated communities on bear-populated areas has led to conflicts harmful to both bears and humans alike.

There are many gated communities in Central Florida, and the new communities are built on top of the natural forest area where the bears live. In result, the bears’ land continues to get smaller and in search of food, they travel into the developed communities.

“Technically my gated community is in a forest-type area, so we are the ones coming onto their land,” said junior Tori Stratis. “I’m not really concerned for my safety because they’re harmless as long as you leave them alone.”

Florida’s black bears are omnivores, and make use of whatever food they can find available. The bears’ diet largely consists of acorns, among other nuts and fruits found in the natural forested areas where they live. Adult black bears require about 5,000 calories a day, and during winter that need increases to about 20,000 calories a day.

The high-caloric foods that a bear could find in a human’s trashcan, or in someone’s open garage,  are an easy source of nutrition. For instance, a bear could consume a box of crackers from someone’s garbage can, or forage for 536 acorns to get the same number of calories. A bear could either choose to take a bag of dog food that a person left outside or have to find and consume as many as 11,165 acorns.

As the bears continue to travel into the gated communities for food, they become used to the close contact with humans and begin  to lose fear of them. This can cause problems as normally a bear would be scared off by people and not attack or confront them.

“When I’m at the gym and I watch the news because it plays all the time, I hear a lot about bears being in gated communities,” said sophomore Dayna Tran.

If you happen to find yourself confronted with a bear, you should first make sure that you’re in a safe area with distance from the bear and that the bear has a clear escape route. Then scare the bear away with loud noises—whatever you can make—either yelling, an air horn, or whatever else is available.

There are very simple methods that people can use to prevent bears entering their communities, keeping bears and people safe and at distance. These include keeping garbage in a shed or bear-resistant container, cleaning grills and keeping them inside after use, picking ripe fruit from nearby trees and removing fallen fruit off the ground, protecting gardens, composts, or livestock with electric fencing, and feeding pets inside or bringing pet food inside immediately after feeding.

Bears are attracted by food, so the best way to avoid bear confrontation is to keep all food locked up and out of a bear’s reach. Once the bear realizes that the area is no longer a food source, it will stop returning. This process may take several weeks before it becomes effective.