Florida biologists say thousands of reported public sightings of panthers and black bears are helping them with ongoing research into locating the large mammals. They’re hoping residents will continue to do their part in helping to contribute to the animals’ conservation.
It’s not unusual for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to get reports about bears that may have been killed along a roadway or bear sightings in someone’s yard. And, FWC Bear Biologist Brian Scheick says his agency wants more than just those types of reports. And, so far, in almost a year, there have been more than 2,200 black bear sightings reported online—more than 500 of those include photos.
“And, so by doing this bear sighting website, the people that are hiking or hunting or kayaking or something they normally wouldn’t call us to tell us about a bear they saw because it’s not a problem for them, and they didn’t know that we were interested,” said Scheick. “So, now they have a place to go. And, just say, ‘hey, I was out on this rural road. I was doing something and I just saw one. And, I thought you’d like to know about it.’ So, that’s sort of a new type of record for us.”
Scheick says continual monitoring of the bears will help the state update a map of the bear population that hasn’t been updated in 10 years.
“And, so, we’ve heard from some folks that they tell us they see bears in some areas that we wouldn’t normally see bears. It wasn’t very common 10 years ago, and it seems to folks it’s more common now. But, we don’t know if it’s sort of an isolated incident, because one bear could show up pretty far away from a normal habitat,” he added.
Meanwhile, there have been more than 1,500 reported sightings of panthers—one of which was seen in an area in Central Florida. Primarily, verified panther sightings are in South Florida.
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