LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) — A black bear appears to have made its home in Polk County.

Lake Wales police are asking residents to stay away from the bear, which was spotted in a tree and walking along the street near Lake Wailes Park.

“It was beautiful. So it was great to see him get out of the tree and get a good picture. That’s what we were all worried about. Everybody wanted a picture,” said Tommy Wunker who lives in Lake Wales.

Residents of a nearby neighborhood have reported the animal rifling through their garbage bins and leaving a mess in its wake. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working to determine the age and gender of the bear.

“This is the most exciting thing to happen in Lake Wales in who knows how long,” said Mariana Templeton, who lives in Lake Wales. “There’s not much that happens here so it’s exciting to come down and see a bear.”

Officials blocked off a large radius around the tree where the bear was perched, hoping it would feel comfortable enough to climb down and go into a wooded area.

“The bears are scared of us. If we give the bears the berth they need to get away they’re saying they’re gonna leave town,” said Lake Wales Deputy Chief David Black.

At around 1:30pm, that is exactly what happened.

The bear dispersed into a wooded area, “which is exactly the outcome we would hope for,” a FWC spokesperson said.

With summer right around the corner, young black bears are more active as they seek out new territory, according to FWC spokesperson Lisa Thompson. Home security cameras captured footage of multiple bears lurking in Tampa Bay area neighborhoods earlier this month.

Bears are drawn to food sources like garbage cans, but wildlife experts say that once residents lock up their bins, a bear will move on to continue their search.

“To avoid encounters between a bear or other wildlife and pets, bang on your door and flip your house lights on and off before letting your pets outside,” Thompson said.

Bears prowling your neighborhood can seem scary, but living in close proximity to humans can also be dangerous for bears. A bear was found dead along an Orlando street last month after being struck by a car. Wildlife officials were trying to trap and relocate the bear for several days after residents spotted it in a tree.

Anyone who feels threatened by a bear, or wants to report a sick or injured animal, is asked to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922).