Celebrity Bear Moved To Zoo
On July 7, less than two weeks after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) captured and relocated the bear for the third time, the animal turned up again in a residential area at Horseshoe Beach in Dixie County. The bear had traveled 110 miles from the spot where the FWC had released it in the Osceola National Forest.
At first, the bear’s captors did not realize it was the same one that dashed into the water when hit with a tranquilizer dart at Alligator Point in June. The bear, known to the FWC as “Bear W007,” probably would have drowned if FWC biologist Adam Warwick had not pulled the animal back to shore during the operation. A bystander’s photograph of the rescue ran in news media all over the world.
Tim Breault, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, said three unsuccessful attempts to relocate the bear to keep it away from populated areas led officials to conclude the bear cannot remain in the wild.
“The bear has learned that populated areas are an easy source of food from garbage cans, barbecue grills, pet food and, in some cases, deliberate feeding by residents,” he said. “The potential threat to human safety from this bear is too great to allow it to continue to venture into populated areas. This is not a pleasant decision for us to have to make, but it is what happens when people feed bears or other wildlife.
“The only alternative was to euthanize the bear,” Breault said, so FWC officials contacted more than 20 zoos and other qualified facilities in a last-ditch effort to find a home for the animal and spare its life. All but one of the facilities said they could not take in such a large wild animal.
Wildlife Rescue and Rehab Inc. agreed to take the bear Wednesday morning. They have made arrangements to have the bear kept at the Hardee County Animal Refuge.
The FWC receives roughly 2,000 calls regarding bears each year. In cases where the bear does not demonstrate aggression and has wandered into a residential area for the first time, the FWC usually captures and relocates the animal to a remote area. In about half the cases, the relocated bear turns up in a residential area again, and in about a third of the cases, the bear visits populated areas repeatedly.
“These captures are potentially dangerous for the bear and for our staff,” Breault said, “but we try to give them a chance to remain in the wild before we have to make the decision to have them permanently removed or put them down.”
For more information about bears in Florida, and how to live safely in bear country, visit MyFWC.com/bear.