- September 27, 2017
The Oakland Nature Preserve’s trail cameras have picked up images of everything from cardinals, otters, bobcats and coyotes in the last six years — but never a black bear.
The bear was meandering through the preserve on April 19 and 20. It was photographed at the seepage stream bridge on the Blue Trail, just south of the education building, in the same area a young bear was spotted last spring.
“It’s a perfect place to cut through,” said Jennifer Hunt, ONP director. “We have a lot of wildlife that uses that trail — bobcats and coyotes. … (They) cut through to additional trails and the west side of the property, toward Trailside Station.”
Hunt said she spoke to a bear contractor with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and this bear is not recorded in its system.
“When they start getting calls about a bear, they will put it in their database to start tracking it,” Hunt said. “It could mean it was coming in from an area; it could be that it wasn’t recognized.”
Officials look for special markings to identify individual animals. It is not yet known if this bear is male or female.
On Monday, May 4, Hunt reported the bear was still in the area over the weekend — and is strong enough to flip over the preserve’s large wooden trashcan container. It also pulled garbage into the preserve from Trailside Station.
“The main reason bears stay in urban areas is because food is plentiful and easy,” Hunt said. “Don’t leave easy pickings out, and the bears will move on. They’re looking for easy access.”
Hunt said the trail cameras have been in operation for six years. Photos are frequently shared on the preserve’s Facebook page, giving residents a chance to get an up-close look at wildlife they normally wouldn’t see.
After the preserve posted the trail cam images on Facebook, area residents began sharing their bear stories on the post.
Neighbors have reported bear sightings on Tildenville School Road, on Brick Road, in a backyard near Lake Apopka and on the West Orange Trail in a residential neighborhood on the west end of Oakland. One resident posted a Ring video of a bear — which she has named Honey Suckle Murphy — sitting in the yard and playing with a rain boot.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind people to be bear aware when enjoying the trails at the preserve, especially early morning and as sunset approaches,” ONP wrote on its Facebook page.
According to the preserve, black bears avoid confrontation more than 90% of the time and generally will give plenty of warnings before charging. FWC has kept track of incidents involving persons injured by a bear in the state since 1976, and it is a rare event. In these cases, the bear was acting in a defensive manner protecting itself, its young or a food source, according to the FWC.
The nature preserve has been closed since March 25 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, and there was no access to the boardwalk or upland trails.
The trails were reopened Monday, but the museum remains closed and the office currently has minimal staff.
Hunt said she hopes to see the entire preserve opened in time for its summer camps.