FORT WALTON BEACH — Bear populations in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties have increased significantly in the last 10 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports.


FORT WALTON BEACH — Bear populations in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties have increased significantly in the last 10 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports.



Statewide, there were 1,346 bear reports in 2002. Last year there were 6,159. In the first six months of 2004, Okaloosa County had 45 bear calls, Santa Rosa County had 11 and Walton County had one. So far, in 2013, Santa Rosa has had 193 bear reports, with Okaloosa close behind at 172. Walton County has had 19 calls.



The increase in bear reports likely can be attributed to the region’s development and population growth, FWC spokesperson Stan Kirkland said.