A black bear was killed on Highway 98 in Navarre this morning when a vehicle reportedly hit the bear near the Sunrise Drive entrance to Holley by the Sea. According to Stan Kirkland of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the bear appears to have been hit sometime during the night or early morning hours.
Black bears are nocturnal animals, and their dark color makes them easily overlooked in the dark, and so this is not all that unusual, according to the FWC, which indicated this happens several times a year. The location along Hwy 98 simply attracted more attention, said Kirkland.
According to FWC Officer Howard Jones, who was on the scene this morning, the bear appeared to be about 2 years old.
"We've seen an explosion of the black bear population throughout the area in recent years," said Jones. "And people are an easy source of food. Bears aren't really afraid of us anymore, they have adapted."
Jones said that the bears have become accustomed to civilization, and raid trash cans, bird feeders and other sources in our yards rather than look for food in the wilderness.
Kirkland and Jones said that the advice they always give residents in areas where bears have been sighted is to leave the bears alone and bring in all bird feeders, pet feeders and any other source of food at night. Residents are also advised to, if possible, keep trash cans and garbage in a shed or closed garage.
The FWC reminds the public that it is illegal to feed or possess a black bear in Florida.
"They are not predatory by nature and are mostly harmless, but it is very important to always simply leave them alone when a bear is spotted," said Jones.
Due to the recent rise in bear encounters in Santa Rosa County, Representative Doug Broxson (R–Midway) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are hosting a public workshop for area residents to learn how to protect their home and property from bear intrusion.
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday July 31 at the Pensacola State College – South Santa Rosa Center (5075 Gulf Breeze Parkway in Gulf Breeze).