Due to the increased bear population in Santa Rosa County, Rep. Doug Broxson (R–Midway), Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are hosting a public workshop for area residents to learn how to protect their home and property from bear intrusion.

The workshop will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 26 at the Bagdad Community Center, 4591 School Street, Milton.

After dwindling to as few as 300 bears in the 1970s, the Florida black bear population has rebounded to more than 3,000 bears today. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) has reported a dramatic increase in bear reports from Santa Rosa County. In 2002, there were 10 such calls, and in 2012, that number had grown to 386 calls.

“As Santa Rosa County’s population has increased over the last decade, so has the bear population. As a result, the presence of bears in residential areas is higher than ever. We must address the property damage and safety concerns of residents,” Broxson said.

Commissioner Cole also commented, “Now more than ever, we are relying on residents to eliminate food availability for bears. FFWCC will provide advice on how to reduce bear related incidents around our homes and businesses. Solving this problem will take everyone working together and doing their part.”

While black bears are rarely aggressive toward people, they can become bold when they grow accustomed to feeding on human-provided foods, such as pet foods, livestock, garbage and bird seed. When this happens, black bears quickly associate people with food and can lose their fear of humans. By learning how to eliminate food availability, most bear problems can be prevented.