Wandering black bear moves into Nocatee, FWC says

Bear makes its way to Nocatee after string of sightings around CR 210 at I-95

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A black bear spotted several times wandering through neighborhoods around County Road 210 and Interstate 95 in St. Johns County has moved into the Nocatee area, according to wildlife officials.

The string of sightings began late April when a black bear was seen at least three times just north of the Duval County line, including once outside a Bartram Park Chili's restaurant.

A bear, which wildlife officials believe to be the same one, was spotted in Nocatee on Wednesday, and a viewer told News4Jax that officers went door-to-door in some neighborhoods, letting residents know of the bear's presence.

The bear was seen on Ron Pickee's home security camera Tuesday evening checking out garbage cans in the Greenleaf neighborhood. The next night, the bear wandered into his backyard, where it was scared up a tree by the next-door neighbor's fearless dog.

WATCH: Security camera captures black bear outside Greenleaf home

His son, Erik Pickee, suspects the bear will be back, looking for something to eat. 

"It's like that because there's been a lot of construction and stuff, so the bear doesn't have anywhere to go," Erik Pickee said. 

A woman called 911 from Greenleaf, saying "I have a black bear. He's right on my back porch. He's trying to get at our bird. We have a bird."

LISTEN: 911 caller reports bear sighting

Nearby in the Greenleaf neighborhood, paw prints could be seen in the Alexanders' yard on Carrier Drive. The family also discovered Thursday morning that their fence had been pushed in. 

"You can see the claw marks here," Janice Alexander showed News4Jax on Thursday. "We're in their territory."

Animal activist Adam Sugalski, with OneProtest, agrees with the residents. He took drove video over the northern part of St. Johns County for perspective on how much land is being cleared. He said when people see a bear, they should stay calm. 

"They see a bear and it's like an axe murderer is running through the neighborhood," Sugalaski said. "If people would just relax, and like I say, a stray dog -- you would never approach a stray dog. Do not approach a black bear."

Earlier this month, St. Johns County resident Justin Robertson, who lives in the Southlake subdivision, captured the bear, which some neighbors nicknamed Sampson, on his home surveillance camera. Neighbors have posted on Facebook, saying they've seen the bear, too.

Though it may seem like there have been more bear sightings than usual, because there's new developments encroaching on forested area in a lot of St. Johns County, officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it's also the time of year when bears are no longer hibernating and begin to wander, looking for food.

“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”

With temperatures increasing, bears are out of their winter dens and are moving around in search of food. June also marks the beginning of black bear mating season in Florida. This causes bears to be more active as they search for potential mates.

It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts. 

To keep bears away from homes and neighborhoods, follow these simple tips:

  • Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
  • Put household garbage out on morning of pickup rather than the night before.
  • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
  • Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
  • Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
  • Clean grills and store them in a secure place.
  • Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.

IMAGES: FWC warns of frisky, foraging black bears

Anyone having conflicts with bears can call one of the FWC’s five regional offices. Click here to find the phone number for a particular region. If anyone feels threatened by a bear or wants to report someone who is either harming bears or intentionally feeding them, call the FWC’s wildlife alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

More information is available at MyFWC.com/Bear, where you can access the “Guide to Living in Bear Country” brochure.

Help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the “Conserve Wildlife” tag at BuyaPlate.com

About the Author:

Storytelling is at the heart of what Alicia loves most about television news and she is thrilled to be a part of the News4Jax team.