Black bear sightings increase in Pinellas County

Pinellas County

OLDSMAR, Fla. (WFLA) – A black bear roaming around Pinellas County was caught on camera outside two homes just a few hours and miles apart on Thursday.

While they can’t say for certain, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials told 8 On Your Side they believe it is the same bear spotted earlier this week at Phillipe Park in Safety Harbor.  

Jennifer Rothe lives in Safety Harbor and says she made two bear-y exciting discoveries on her home security camera Thursday.

“I check it every morning to see what wildlife comes walking through our yard,” she said.

Rothe noticed a black bear visited her front yard in Safety Harbor at 12:17 a.m. and then returned less than three hours later at 2:55 a.m., headed in the other direction. She said she shared both videos with Florida Fish and Wildlife officials.

“We’ve just been calling him Yogi, but I heard that there’s a Twitter account for him,” Rothe said.

The @PinellasBear Twitter account popped up Thursday morning and has been entertaining people in the Tampa Bay area with updates to inform everyone the bear is just looking for a mate.

“Now that I’ve got everyone’s attention…18 month old single black male looking for companionship. I enjoy long walks on the beach, scurrying up trees, picnics, and berries. Let’s make a den together! Or head to the Keys. Must be able to hide from the evil humans quickly,” the account tweeted Thursday.

FWC’s Assistant Bear Program Coordinator Mike Orlando said it’s likely the real bear they have been tracking has traveled south from Hernando through Pasco into Pinellas County.

“It’s actually an amazing phenomenon because if it wasn’t for a lot of these security systems or RING doorbells, we probably wouldn’t even know the bear is there,” Orlando said. “I mean he’s been moving all night long.”

About four hours after the second overnight sighting at Rothe’s home, Yeng Yang’s home security camera four miles away to the north recorded a similar-sized black bear.

“It’s pretty interesting how far it’s travelling and especially coming from Safety Harbor to Oldsmar,” Yang said.

Orlando told 8 On Your Side this time of year it is common to spot wandering juvenile bears in other areas in Florida, but it is “unusual to have them in that part of Pinellas County.”  

“If he does get holed up in one little area for more than a day or so we can put a trap out we can try to catch him and relocate him to the Ocala National Forrest,” Orlando explained.

Rothe said she is OK if that happens. She just hopes the bear stays out of harm’s way.

“We’re taking their land,” she said. “We’re taking their food so what do we expect. But we can cohabitate with them. It’s no big deal.”

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