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A black bear is making its way through Southeast Tallahassee. The FWC says don't feed it

A Florida black bear. NOT the one sighted in Tallahasse
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
flickr.com/ LICENSE ID (CC BY-ND 2.0)
A Florida black bear. NOT the one sighted in Tallahasse

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a message for people tempted to cater to the black bear roaming Southeast Tallahassee: “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

The bear was first spotted two weeks ago in the Northeast and has now made its way to neighborhoods off Conner boulevard near Tom Brown Park.

David Telesco leads FWC’s bear management program. He says the bear currently roaming in South Tallahassee appears to weigh about 200 pounds and is a young, adult male. The bear was first spotted about two weeks ago, North of Miccosukee Road by the greenway. It has made its way through Lafayette Oaks, down through Westminster, and in recent days, has been spotted in neighborhoods off Conner Boulevard.

“He’s working his way down and working his way out of town basically. So we just ask folks to give him his space, and he’ll move on," said David Telesco, a program administrator for the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Bear management program.

Usually, bears come into Tallahassee from the west—where the Apalachicola National Forest is. That makes this bear’s Northeastern-to-Southeastern trek a bit unusual. Still, Telesco would prefer the bear move a bit faster.

“In this case, there’s so much food that he’s not spending any length of time in any one place. But he’s moving through town a little slower than we’d like. We’d like him to go on and get on out of here, but everything we’ve been hearing from folks shows he’s moving on, [that] he’s not super focused on any one area, and that’s what we want. We want them to move through instead of camp out.”

Telesco’s main message to residents is to stay away and don’t try to feed the bear. For one, putting food out for bears— whether intentional or not—is illegal. And two, When the animals get accustomed to humans they lose their fear and become dependent. The FWC no longer deploys a capture and relocate program so the agency ends up euthanizing between 20-40 bears deemed a nuisance, each year.

“When we say ‘a fed bear is a dead bear,’ it’s true," Telesco said. "If you feed a bear, you get him used to people and that’s when he becomes a public safety risk. And that’s when we have to do the worst part of our jobs, which is to catch and kill a bear, just because he’s acting like a bear.” 

Pictures and video of Tallahassee’s black bear have popped up in the NextDoor app, turning the animal into a bit of a local internet celebrity in recent days. That’s a change from bear encroachments of years past, says Telesco. Before the advent of backyard and doorbell cameras, the bears could slip in and out of town with barely anyone noticing.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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