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An Open Letter to Santa Rosa County Commissioners about living with bears and bear resistant cans

— An Open Letter to Santa Rosa County Commissioners —

Imagine Our Florida Inc.’s response to the Santa Rosa’s Press Gazette article titled Santa Rosa commissioner demands Fish and Wildlife’s help with bears ” hoping it will lead to expanded bear hunting.” http://www.srpressgazette.com/…/santa-rosa-commissioner-dem…

Santa Rosa County Government
Board of County Commissions
6495 Caroline St
Suite M
Milton, Fl 32583
November 2, 2017

Dear Commissioner Sam Parker, Commissioner Robert Cole, Commissioner W.D. Salter, Commissioner Rob Williamson, Commissioner Lane Lynchard,

I am writing to you regarding the article in the Santa Rosa’s Press Gazette dated October 27, 2017

Like you, my husband and I occasionally have black bears in our yard. Our first encounter happened while looking out our kitchen window to watch two bears ravish our bird feeders. Soon after that first sighting, my husband encountered a bear in our garage. I vividly remember his reaction! After gathering our wits about us, we realized I had left the garage door open and the open bag of birdseed was simply too much of a temptation for our furry friend to pass up.

We have come a long way from those days of not understanding. It was good to learn that a bear’s diet does not include humans. We must also remember that it wasn’t that long ago when overhunting nearly made the Florida black bear, an umbrella species, become extinct. As you have seen, the overwhelming majority of our fellow Floridians are united in their commitment to keep our bears safe and to avoid another bear hunt. With this in mind and together with volunteers from around the entire state of Florida, Imagine Our Florida, Inc. presents our Interdependence Lesson Plan on Florida Black Bears to Floridians of all ages.

As you may recall, a few years ago volunteers from Imagine Our Florida, Inc. presented a slideshow on Bears at your Commissioner meeting. We appreciate your effort to educate the wonderful people of Santa Rosa County by passing a Bear friendly ordinance. As with all counties, it takes an ongoing commitment to reach all of the folks and teach them how to avoid human-bear conflicts. Often times, it just takes a bit of knowledge about Florida’s iconic black bears to turn fear into respect for our wildlife and to come to terms with the changes we all must make to live safely near bear habitat. Let me explain a portion of our science-based lesson plan.

Fall is Hyperphagia Season. Florida Black Bears want to fatten up for the winter months so they will consume 20,0000 calories each day. Bears are lazy. They can smell goodies from a mile away. A pound of berries or acorns has about 2000 calories per serving. Seven pounds of birdseed has about 12,000 calories. A 25-pound bag of dog food has 42,000 calories. If a lazy bear is lucky enough to find a bag of dog food, he can sleep for two days!

There’s also something fascinating about a bear’s reproductive system. If a bear has plenty of food available, mother bears will have 2 or 3 cubs. However, if food is scarce in the forest, mother bears may skip a season and not give birth to any cubs. Nature ensures that bears will never overpopulate their available food source.

How does reproduction pertain to bears in your human neighborhoods? Will hunting bears eliminate bears wandering into human neighborhoods?

The answer is really quite simple. Bears will reproduce depending on food availability. Hunting will thin out the herd so to speak, but often the bears that are killed are forest dwellers and hunting leaves behind the bears frequenting human neighborhoods. After a hunt, if the same food sources, both natural and human, are still available, mother bears will simply produce more cubs. Next year, the mother bear who has grown to love human food will come back to the neighborhood with cubs in tow.

So what is the solution? Securing attractants is the key. It has been proven by FWC that implementing Bear-Resistant Trash Cans in neighborhoods can reduce human-bear conflicts by up to 95%. If a bear smells leftovers and comes to the neighborhood in search of food, but can’t get to it, he will retreat back into the forest where berries, insects, and acorns are free for all. Bears are not much different than us. If we are at a friend’s house and dinner is cooking in the oven, the wonderful aromas are sure to make us hungry. If our friend doesn’t invite us to stay for dinner, we will politely say our goodbyes and go back home where we can freely eat whatever we want.

Like all of Florida counties in bear territory, educating your constituents about securing their bear attractants is vital. When there is nothing to eat in human neighborhoods, bears will make their home in the forest where they will live a healthy life. We urge you to apply for a grant from FWC for bear-resistant trash cans. May we also suggest that you lobby your Florida government officials for a larger amount of money to be allocated for bear-resistant trash cans and bear smart education. All of us at Imagine Our Florida, Inc. pray that you will consider the points made in this letter and take them under advisement for the health, safety, and welfare of your citizens.

Best regards,

Nancy Kon
President Imagine Our Florida, Inc.
Aymee Laurain
Andy Waldo
Dan Kon
Julia Sable
Directors Imagine Our Florida, Inc

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