Bear searching for home gets lost in Orlando, Florida

A young male Florida black bear that spent a couple of days in metropolitan Orlando was caught by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists about 3 p.m. Sunday and released into the Ocala National Forest that night without incident.

FWC biologists said the bear is a healthy, young male between 2 and 3 years old that weighs 200-250 pounds. He was probably pushed out of his birth territory this spring by his mother and was looking for a new place to call home. He was likely from the Wekiva River Basin area.

“This bear was doing what all young male bears must do: striking out on his own, looking for a new home. Unfortunately, he went the wrong way and eventually wandered into downtown Orlando, two blocks west of the Amway Center,” said Mike Orlando, assistant bear management program coordinator for the FWC. “He got a lot of attention but he never really caused any problems, despite being in the middle of the city.”

Orlando was able to shoot the bear with a tranquilizer dart in the backyard of a residence on Jackson Street, where it had hunkered down for the day.

“It’s always a question of whether or not to attempt to dart a bear in a situation like this for several reasons, including that it may run off before the tranquilizer takes effect,” said Orlando. “Luckily in this situation everything worked the way we always hope it will.”

While the bear was tranquilized and out cold, residents who had been watching the animal all day gathered around as the FWC’s Orlando worked it up and explained what he was doing and why. Many of the residents were thrilled that the bear was uninjured and was going to be moved to the Ocala National Forest.

Orlando Police Department officers first called the FWC about 11:30 p.m. Friday after the bear was treed in a retention pond in the 5000 block of Strada Capri Way in the Turkey Lake area. The FWC explained that the best thing to do was back away from it and give it a chance to leave on its own.

Orlando police kept an eye on the bear as it moved around the city until about 4 a.m. Saturday.

The FWC had no further reports until around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, when Orlando police reported the bear again, this time in a tree near the 1500 block of 20th Street. Police were on the scene to manage the large crowd that had gathered and to keep an eye on the bear’s travels.

About three hours later, around 1:45 a.m. Sunday, the bear was near Carter Street and Boston Avenue, heading toward the East-West Expressway, also known as the 408. FWC biologists praised the Orlando Police Department’s quick action to close the highway temporarily in the early morning hours, when officers anticipated that the bear would cross it.

While traffic waited, the bear safely crossed the 408 and ended up in a fenced yard on Jackson Street in Parramore, where pit bull dogs living there scared it into a tree. He stayed in the tree for several hours as hundreds of local residents stopped by throughout the day to see the unusual sight in downtown Orlando. Eventually, the bear climbed down and sat at the base of the tree, panting in the shade, where biologist Orlando had the perfect opportunity to dart it and take it safely out of the city.

The last that FWC biologists saw of the bear was when it pushed through thick scrub oaks and palmettos to seek his own space deep in the Ocala National Forest.

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