Panhandle Residents Attend FWC Meeting on Bears

SANTA ROSA BEACH -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to help panhandle residents peacefully coexist with one of the area's native species.

The agency held a public meeting Tuesday in South Walton to talk about black bears.

Some residents report an increase in the number of bear encounters. Dozens attended the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's meeting on black bears.

Some of those in attendance were not happy.

Earl Barrett, Walton County resident said, "I think that they could regulate them by maybe opening some type of lottery hunting season. Or either being able to take some out that really are the nuisances."

This was the third meeting wildlife officials have held in the panhandle on the bear issue.

David Telesco, Bear Program coordinator said, "Since the first meeting everybody whose come has been really willing to participate and share their ideas."

They've answered questions, handed out surveys and given advice on how to react if you come in contact with a bear.

"Bears that are starting to live in a neighborhood starting to get used to people we don't want that, no one wants that. And so that's what were gonna try to avoid."

But some residents are still fearful.

"It's just a powder keg I think fixing to happen. Somebody's gonna get attacked by them,” Barrett said.

Wildlife officials hope the responses to the surveys will help give them a better understanding of how bear are affecting residents' lives, and identify future steps they need to take to prevent bears from destroying property.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to present some of that information during a bear stakeholder group meeting in November.