Floridians more likely to see bear activity as denning season nears

Snowbirds are beginning to flock back to Florida and soon Central Florida residents are likely to see more bear activity, too.

In the “winter denning” period — which runs through late March — bears become more active foragers. They will need to triple their calorie intake.

It is a time when humans and bears are more likely to run into one another.

We’ve had plenty of examples of bears getting too close for comfort in and around The Villages:

• Earlier this year, the Sumter County sheriff’s office issued a warning after several bear sightings in Wildwood and The Villages area.

The image of this black bear was captured at Wildwood Country Resort.
A hairdresser’s photo of a bear outside her salon.

• That followed an incident earlier that month when a bear was captured on surveillance at the Wildwood Country Resort at State Road 44 and Buena Vista Boulevard.

A Lady Lake man shot a bear at his home after it invaded his sunroom.

A local hairdresser found two bears in her tree hissing at customers coming in and out of her salon.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises that if you encounter a bear at close range in your backyard or in the outdoors, remain standing, don’t stare into the bear’s eyes, back up slowly and speak to the bear in a calm voice. Don’t run away, approach the bear or play dead. Find a safe place and make sure the bear has an escape route, then yell or bang pots and pans together to scare the bear away.

Villager Sara Branscome shot this photo of a bear’s behind from her birdcage.

There are 1,200 bears roaming Central Florida. They are the largest land mammals in the state. Male bears typically weigh between 250 and 400 pounds. Three adult male bears have tipped the scales at more than 600 pounds each. Females are smaller at about 125-250 pounds each. Bear cubs at birth are smaller than a can of soda.