LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County officials are urging people to report bear sightings after a black bear was spotted twice recently.
The sheriff’s office and FWC received two calls recently in the Ewell Road and Drane Field Road areas of Lakeland this week.
News Channel 8 has obtained video of the bear near Ferrera Tooling in Lakeland.
Pablo Delvalle, an employee at Ferrera Tooling, heard somebody yelling, “’Pablo there’s a bear!’”
“At first I didn’t see it. I was looking everywhere and I just saw it run right past me,” he said.
Monday morning, Delvalle was getting out of his car while holding his lunch, when he suddenly went still at the sight of the Florida black bear.
It was “galloping like a horse,” Delvalle said.
“I haven’t seen that. That’s why I was so shocked,” he said. “It was so big. I was just like ‘Whoa’.”
His coworker, Nick Linder, caught it on video as it dashed away.
On Sunday morning, at around 6:30, a bear paid a visit to Pamela Simmons’ home on Ewell Road, a few miles away.
“I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and I thought ‘Good gosh, that’s a big dog,” she said.
But it wasn’t a dog. It was a bear.
“I just sat here with my mouth open and my eyes big and I knew what I was looking at but my brain wouldn’t accept it,” she said.
Simmons waited until the bear walked down the driveway before she got up, closed the garage door and went into her home.
Since that encounter, Simmons does not keep trash laying around and feeds her pets inside.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) estimates there are 4,000 Florida black bears in the Sunshine State.
“They do look intimidating and they can be pretty large but they’re usually pretty afraid of us,” said David Telesco, FWC bear management program coordinator.
From looking at pictures and video, Telesco believes the bear being sighted is less than 100 pounds.
It’s family breakup time, he said.
Male bears spend a year and a half with their mothers and then venture out on their own.
“What they’re doing is trying to find a place where they can be, where there aren’t other bears but they can find a place that’s safe for them,” Telesco explained. “This has been happening outside of Jacksonville and Tampa and some other places as well. This is that time of year when they’re striking out on their own.”
Telesco advises you to give the bear space if you see one. Do not feed a bear or it could return looking for more food.
If you see a bear, you should report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (863) 648-3200.
You can learn more about bears in Florida on the FWC website.