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Interview with FWC’s Mike Orlando: The “Bear Facts” And A Reminder Not To Cut Your Trash Out – Central Florida News – Environment

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During the springtime in Florida, Mommy Bears and their cubs roam around looking for food. So don’t leave your trash out. Photo: FWC

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It’s spring in central Florida and that means bears – lots of mummy bears and their cubs roam around looking for food.

Therefore, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges residents to secure their garbage, pet food, and bird feeders so as not to attract the wild animals.

WMFE reporter Joe Byrnes took this opportunity to speak to the FWC’s deputy bear program coordinator, Mike Orlando, about the current bear situation.

WMFE: What’s the message you want to get right now to homeowners?

MIKE ORLANDO: Well, Florida bears actually hibernate. And you can tell that if they overheated in the fall, they would go to sleep for the winter. They would go to sleep in winter and then when they wake up in spring they would be hungry again.

And so most people will forget about the bears over the winter because they are simply not around, leaving their garbage and birdseed and pet food outside, and we tell them – remind them – that bears will be moving around.

And if they can secure these attractants, hopefully we won’t have human-bear conflict.

WMFE: Many people outside Florida are surprised to learn that we have bears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got this reaction. How are Florida black bears different from other bears in North America?

MIKE ORLANDO: In fact, the Florida black bear is a subspecies of the North American black bear – it’s Ursus americanus floridanus – and they’re not that different overall. They go through the same biological and physical processes all year round. The only thing we have that is just a little different is that our hibernation is a little shorter because hibernation is mainly a product of the availability of food. And if there’s still plenty to eat in the winter, some of our tall men can walk up and down and take short naps. And then we have really big bears here in Florida. Our largest documented bear is 760 pounds …

WMFE: Impressive!

MIKE ORLANDO: … which is a pretty big bear. Yes. So we don’t just have bears. We actually have very large bears, which is shocking to many people as well.

WMFE: What can you tell us about the Florida bear population, how it is doing, especially in central Florida?

MIKE ORLANDO: Central Florida is one of our most resilient populations. We have over 1,200 bears from the Ocala National Forest to the Wekiwa Basin and all surrounding areas. It’s actually going very well. And bears across the state are actually doing very well. We now have over 4,000 bears.

WMFE: Are bears dangerous to humans?

MIKE ORLANDO: Well, like any wild animal – and I want to make this clear – any wild animal can be dangerous to a person. The bears were larger than most of the animals that appear in people’s courtyards. And they are very powerful. And so the answer is always: Sure. Absolutely, a bear could be dangerous, it could be dangerous to a person.

But for the most part, believe it or not, the amount of interactions that happen between bears and humans every day in Florida. The fact that we don’t have that many people hurt by bears is actually a kind of testament to bears. They, you know, really don’t want conflict with people. These injuries often come from bears protecting cubs or bears protecting litter, some kind of defense mechanism that this animal exhibits, and you know we’re sadly in the way.

WMFE: Thank you for talking to me, Mike. Thank you, I should thank you for the facts.

MIKE ORLANDO: Yes. Yes, bear puns are part of my life, a constant thing every day.

That was Mike Orlando from the FWC Bear Program speaking to Joe Byrnes from WMFE. Please visit myfwc.com/bears for more information.


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Janet Smith