Bear-ly believable: Black bear captured after climbing tree in Tampa

By Saundra Weathers, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013

A black bear that was captured in a Tampa neighborhood this morning has been released back into the wild.

Officials said the bear was taken to the Ocala National Forest where it was set free.

The bear was found in a tree at 2817 Broad Street W. The report about the bear came in shortly after 8 a.m.

Eloy Perez said if someone told him his morning walk would ever involve a bear, he wouldn’t believe them. That is until today.

“I noticed when I looked, there was a bear on the ground. Like three feet away from the dog,” said Perez.

Perez said when he called 911, they couldn’t believe it either.

"I told them there was a bear in my backyard and I guess they thought I was crazy," said Perez.

"I know that they exist in Florida but never seen one down here," said neighbor Bruce Cohen. "When you go up towards Chasawista, that’s bear country- but not Tampa!

Deputies and wildlife officers responded to the scene, and shortly after 10 a.m., they shot the bear with a tranquilizer dart. The official shot him again several minutes later, and the bear fell out of the tree.

"We hit him with two darts. The reason we hit him with two darts is because it’s not in a normal setting we would do. Not in a rural area where there are not a lot of people he had all kind of cameras watching him so it worked him up," said Daryl Amerson, FWC. "We wanted to make sure when he was down he stayed out.

The bear was reportedly on the ground in the back yard, and the deputy who spotted him said he "ran up the tree faster than a squirrel."

Bear no stranger to human interaction

Officials said the bear, which appears to weigh about 400 pounds, has a tag, which means he has interacted with humans before. 

According to FWC spokesman Gary Morse, the bear was originally found in Orlando months ago. Wildlife officials trapped him and took him to the Ocala National Forest, which is where officials said they plan to return the bear.

This is the second time a black bear has been spotted in the Bay area this month.  Earlier this month, a Spring Hill resident snapped a photo of a 400-pound bear as it stood in his back yard.  There is no word as to whether this is the same bear.

Male black bears normally weigh between 250 and 450 pounds, while females normally weigh between 125 and 250 pounds.

About 3,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, with most of them living in national parks and wildlife refuges.  According to the FWC, the nearest location with a high concentration of black bears is the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

Encountering a black bear

Anyone who encounters a black bear is advised to stay standing upright, and to back up slowly while speaking to the bear in a calm, assertive voice.  Do not feed bears or intentionally attract them.

If you find a bear in your yard, make sure you are in a safe area and that the bear can escape. Then make noise or bang pots to scare the bear away.  Avoid direct eye contact, and report any bears that threaten the safety of humans, pets or livestock to the FWC.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials recommend the following steps to avoid human-bear conflicts:

  • Feed pets indoors, or bring in dishes after feeding.
  • Secure household garbage in a shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
  • Put household garbage out on the morning of pickup, not the night before.
  • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters consisting of metal lids or metal-reinforced plastic lids and lock bars.
  • Clean barbecue grills and store them in a locked, secure place.
  • Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
  • Protect gardens, apiaries, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees, and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
  • Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute ordinances on keeping foods secure that would attract wildlife.