FWC answers questions about black bears from frustrated Gulf Breeze neighbors

Northwest Florida

GULF BREEZE, Fla. (WKRG) — Neighbors in Gulf Breeze are fed up with black bears in their communities, and the city organized a meeting Wednesday night to address concerns and get questions answered.

At least 200 people have reported seeing a bear between Jan 1 and July 31.

It was a full house at Gulf Breeze Community Center as everyone came together to meet with elected leaders and Florida Fish and Wildlife officials.

“I’ve lived here 22 years. I’ve never seen a bear until now,” one woman said.

Dozens of people showed up with concerns as they see more and more black bears in their neighborhoods.

“We heard a scream from the neighbor’s child, and it was very close to a bear,” one man said. “There were two of them in their backyard.”

Dave Telesco, a statewide bear coordinator with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, tried to ease fears and answer everyone’s questions.

“I don’t want anybody to feel like these bears are out to get you,” Telesco said. “You should not be uncomfortable with mowing your lawn. You should not be uncomfortable with walking your dog.”

Marianne McMahon says, at first glance, it seems like she’s operating a bear resort on her property.

“They’re in my hot tub,” McMahon said. “They’re laying on lounge chairs.”

McMahon has seen bears multiple times every day since June 23rd and they’re causing damage.

“I’m at a loss here and I’m not anti-bear,” she said. “I think bears are great but I can’t have them tearing up my property.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials say there are only about 120 bears in this area of the Florida Panhandle but they move around a lot mostly eating plants and bugs. FWC says it’s illegal to intentionally feed bears. FWC asks that you give them a call every time you see a bear so they can track their patterns and determine if it’s a bear that should be removed.

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