SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $49 for one year. Save 59%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $49 for one year. Save 59%.
OPINION

Steve Ashmore: We must work together to make life more bear-able

Del Stone Jr.
Northwest Florida Daily News

There are two types of people in Fort Walton Beach. There are those who think bears are magnificent beasts who should be allowed to roam free. The others fight an annual battle of wits and perseverance during the two stages which surround hibernation.

Personally I’m in the second category. Every autumn there are several hundred residents who have to repair fences, pick up garbage (not necessarily their own), and wake to the sounds of large animals going bump in the night. I was reminded of this again last night.

Steve Ashmore

The Florida black bear averages 4-7 feet in length. They weigh in between 150- 600 pounds. They have teeth and long, sharp claws. They can run 30 mph, swim, and climb trees. To top it off they are omnivores, they eat anything! In short, their natural shyness is the only reason they don’t make an excellent predator. Unfortunately when they discover a regular food source, their timidity is quickly abated. No amount of noise will discourage them from licking the last serving of lasagna off paper plates.

The uniformed officers of Florida Fish & Wildlife do an admirable job, but few citizens are provided the opportunity to speak with them. Instead, biologists handle the initial complaints over the phone. Typically, the naturalists recommend keeping your garbage indoors and using motion activated sprinklers. These tactics are inconsequential unless the entire neighborhood complies, an unlikely scenario.

Bears wander an area of about a half million acres in search of food. It’s reported that black bears can smell food 4 miles away. This by itself puts the animals at risk. Sightings have become more frequent and bears are being injured and killed as they cross highways to forage.

Hurlburt Field has nearly alleviated their issues through a diligent effort to bear-proof the base. Similar efforts should be initiated in areas where there are frequent sightings and conflicts. Providing (instead of selling) bear-proof garbage cans and dumpsters in these areas would encourage the creatures to remain in their natural habitat.

And maybe, just maybe, I could revert to one of those people who believes that they should roam free.

Read more of Steve Ashmore's blogs.