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Officials trying to trap black bear on island

By Staff | Aug 3, 2011

On June 27, a motion-activated camera captured this image of a Florida black bear on refuge property.

Since late June, when a motion-activated camera captured several images of a Florida black bear roaming through the Bailey Tract, a 100-acre freshwater satellite parcel of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Tara Wertz has been accumulating and tracking the bear’s activities reported by residents and island visitors.

According to Wertz, lead biologist at the refuge, approximately 15 individual sightings of the bear – estimated to be a year and a half old and weighing between 40 and 60 pounds – have been logged during the past month, including an incident in which several bee hives were reportedly damaged by the bear early last week.

On Wednesday morning, the City of Sanibel issued an e-mail alert regarding the incident, which was reported to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) by a private citizen. The FWC then contacted the refuge to request permission to set up a live trap for the nuisance bear.

“The decision was made jointly by the FWC, the refuge and the city,” said Wertz. “Trapping the bear is probably the best decision right now.”

Only July 28, a “live” culvert trap – which will not harm the bear – was set on SCCF-owned property, in the area where the bear has been frequently reported. If the bear is not caught by the end of the day on Aug. 4, the trap will be removed.

“We are checking the trap three times each day – morning, noon and night,” noted Wertz. “Since it’s been so hot out, we don’t want the bear to be put in harm’s way and be exposed to that heat for too long.”

If the bear is not caught by Thursday, the trap will be removed. Officials will continue to monitor reported sightings of the bear before determining where the trap will be relocated in the future.

“We want this to be a good outcome for all involved,” Wertz added.

Residents and visitors are advised take precautionary measures to keep all food and garbage secured and stored inside, if possible.

Black bears are native to Florida and are protected under state law. Dwindling populations in Florida have caused this subspecies to be listed as “threatened” under the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Statute. It is illegal to approach or harass this animal. The FWC is working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the City of Sanibel to trap and relocate the bear.

The FWC is the responsible agency for managing Florida black bears and has the authority to relocate nuisance bears. The area where the bear will be located will be determined by the FWC.

Please report any sightings of the bear to Tara Wertz at the J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR by calling 472-1100 ext. 231.