Unexpected visitor? Black bear spotted in Clay County neighborhood

What officials want you to do if you catch sight of bear

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. - Deputies are asking Fleming Island residents to help with bear patrol -- from a safe location, of course.

A bear was spotted Monday morning in a residential neighborhood near Hibernia Road.

A photo of the bear showed it running between houses.

Clay County deputies were out helping officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help track down the bear. But the FWC told News4Jax it plans to let the bear wander through the area and move on without disturbing it. FWC officers said that's usually how they handle bear sightings if there's no imminent threat -- to let the bear get back to the woods.

Some residents blame recent development in this area of Fleming Island for the bear sighting. There are multiple new neighborhoods in the area that were wooded areas just a couple of years ago.

"(It was) like any rural area -- hogs, bear, deer, snakes, varmints," said a man named Perry who lives in the area. "But once you start building these houses, that moves them somewhere else."

Other residents were concerned. Gail Evans said she's seen a bobcat in the neighborhood in the past, but never a bear.  

"Well, when that occurred, before every time I went outside, I would beat on the truck, so I want my presence known," Evans said.

Anyone who catches sight of the bear, which appears to be a Florida black bear, is asked to call the FWC at 1-888-404-3922 or dial #FWC or *FWC on a mobile phone. Or you can call the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512 to help them narrow down the bear's location.

Not being sure where the bear might end up, R.M. Paterson Elementary School officials said they were taking precautions. The school is about 3 miles north of where the bear was last seen. They sent out a text alert to parents early in the school day and then an email as school was letting out.

The email included a message from the FWC that said it thought the bear is sleeping during the daytime to keep cool and will likely wander during the evening and overnight.

The FWC asks residents to keep garbage cans covered, as well as any other sources of food that may attract the animal. 

The bear sighting in Fleming Island happened during Bear Awareness Week. Click here to learn more about bears in Florida.

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