Bear Hunting in Florida – A Behind the Story Look

Just a few weeks ago, Florida wrapped up its first bear hunt in decades. I wrote about the outcome here and here.  A few of my bear hunt stories aired nationally on NPR including this feature. I wrote it as officials were still working out the details of the plan.

I’ve been reflecting on the hunt and wanted to share with you a little bit about what it took to write that story for NPR’s Weekend Edition.

black bear

Working on this story while keeping up with my regular work at the station was exhausting. I spent days squeezing in early morning or late evening interviews and kept both a pair of boots and heels in my trunk so I could switch from a tramp through the woods to a stroll through the Capitol. But it was also so. much. fun.

I spent one day driving through some of the most beautiful parts of North Florida with a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist.

birds

I also got to take an AMAZING tour of the Tallahassee museum. Besides being close enough to a massive black bear to get a little bear snot on my mic, I also got to pet a sloth and hop into the enclosure with this guy:

turtle

Some of the most interesting facts I learned:

  • Florida bears have a sweet tooth. While wildlife specialists in other states use old beaver skins to attract and count or monitor bears. Florida officials lure bears with honey buns.
  • Black bears are smart, have good memories and can see color well. Many  waste management companies offer bear proof trashcans in a different color from the non-bear-proof variety. Wildlife officials say bears can see that, remember they can’t open them and often don’t even bother stopping to check them out.
  • But they’ll try a few of those differently colored cans before they learn. And they check back every now and then to be sure nothing has changed. On my tour around Franklin County FWC biologist Kaitlin Goode, showed me dozens of trashcans with bite and claw marks. She says bears turn trashcans over and jump on them to try to explode them open. And the bears are strong enough to bend thinner metal lids on some dumpsters if the lid is only secured in one place.
  • Most of the year food is the biggest motivation for bears. That’s why the smell of garbage brings them out of the woods and into backyards. Human food is full of calories, which is good news for bears who are stuck otherwise trying to take in 15-thousand calories of acorns.

Image 1  |  Image 2 R&W  |  Image 3 R&W

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