Residents across Florida are keeping their guard up after a growing number of black bear sightings, including one that claimed the life of a beloved family pet.
A couple in Collier County recently watched as their dog was attacked by a bear, who charged at the animal and owner Debra Knight while outside their home. Knight’s husband, Bruce, was able to scare the bear away, but not before the Boston terrier named “Simone” had passed away.
The Knights told NBC affiliate WBBH-TV that they feel “captive” in their own home after recent sightings. Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission left traps outside their home in an effort to try and capture any animals.
In the Central Florida city of Lake Wales, WFLA-TV reported that a black bear was spotted outside the tax collector’s office located downtown. Surrounded by a largely wooded area, workers have been on edge after the sighting as they worry about a possible attack.
FWC officers say black bears are the only species found in Florida, with around 4,350 throughout the state. They advise homeowners the best way to keep bears from your area is to not feed them, as bears are attracted to easy access areas such as garbage cans, bird feeders or other areas where pet food may be.
If you encounter a bear at close range, FWC officials say you should remain standing upright with arms raised, back up slowly and speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice.
If a bear comes into your yard, several steps to get the animal to leave include making sure that the bear has a clear escape route and scare it away by banging on pots and pans, using an air horn, or anything else that makes a lot of noise.