Polk Co. bear climbs higher in tree after storms, neighborhood on alert

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – Imagine looking out a window of your home and seeing a bear standing in your yard, looking at you.

That’s what happened to a Winter Haven resident who took some photos of the bear. 

“My wife stepped out to get the dog and bring it in, and the bear was walking right along the bushes, with its nose in the bushes, sniffing around,” Brad McCard told News Channel 8.

“It’s not what I expected Monday morning. It’s unusual for one to be this far in town. I’m real curious how he ended up here. It is garbage day, so maybe that had something to do with it,” laughed resident Steve Enzor.

The bear had people living in the Winter Haven neighborhood on watch.

Winter Haven police say the bear was seen in the neighborhood around Drexel Avenue in Lake Elbert Monday morning.

When Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrived, the bear was spooked into climbing a tree, where it remained throughout the day.

As of 9:30 p.m. Monday night, the bear moved higher into the tree after heavy storms moved into the area.

FWC officers tried to lure it with sweet treats like donuts and honey and are monitoring the area.

They say the bear has not been aggressive, so they plan to relocate it.

“I like that they’re trying to coax him down instead of tranquilize him down, so that’s good,” McCard said.

FWC spokesperson Gary Morse told News Channel 8 people could see more black bears wandering into neighborhoods, because their conservation efforts have worked.

“We have a conservation success story. We have an increasing number of black bears in the state and the likelihood is that we’ll be seeing this type of thing more often as bear populations increase,” Morse said. He recommends residents bear-proof their yard to avoid attracting them.

“Secure all their attractants. Secure your trash, birdseed, etc. and ensure the bear doesn’t hang around in our residential and urban neighborhoods,” he said. 

If you see the bear, do not approach it. Call 911 or FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

FWC says that bears are attracted to neighborhoods that allow access to food sources – such as garbage, pet food and birdseed – and will quickly learn to associate homes and businesses with getting an easy meal.

Bears that become too comfortable around people are more likely to be killed by collisions with vehicles, by someone taking an illegal action or by FWC to address a public safety risk.

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Winter Haven Police Department photo
Winter Haven Police Department photo

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