Summertime in Florida means greater propensity for bear activity

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- As the sun continues to shine brightly upon Hurlburt Field each day, many people come out of their hiding places to enjoy the fantastic weather and climate that makes the installation one of the most preferred destinations on an individual's dream sheet. 

However, people aren't the only creatures that enjoy the warm sun and the cool breezes that Hurlburt Field provides. 

Bear activity and sightings always peak during the summer months, July thru August each year, said Ms. Traci Dewar, 1 SOCES asset management flight chief. 

This summer has been particularly friendly to our furred inhabitants. 

A biologist was brought on base recently to conduct a bear survey, and they concluded they'd never seen an area with as much concentrated bear activity as Hurlburt Field. The biologist, in their short time here, saw two different bears in different areas on base. 

The amount of bear sightings has increased steadily over the past 10 years or so, Ms. Dewar said. 

To what do we owe Mother Nature such a pleasure? A near-perfect trio for a healthy bear population, according to Ms. Dewar. 

First, Hurlburt Field lies on the East River Swamp which is 40,000 acres of mostly uninhabitable land on the Eglin Range. 

Second, bears are at the top of the food chain. The only natural predator a bear has in this area is other bears. This provides ample food opportunities readily available to the mammals. In addition, the black bear's protected condition makes them illegal to hunt in the state of Florida, eliminating another possible predator. 

Finally, once bears discover calorie-rich food from trash cans, dumpsters and other man-made sources, they don't have the desire to go back to nuts and berries. I, for one, don't really blame them. 

Regardless of what many small-budget horror films may try to tell you, bears do not have much interest in eating humans. They are however, very interested in eating our food. 

We can all do our part to ensure the bears remain spectators in our life and not active participants. Here are some tips to help prevent Hurlburt Field personnel from getting a close encounter : 

o Keep garbage cans in a storage room or closed garage until the morning of trash pick-up 

o Don't leave excess food in pet's dishes outside at night 

o If bears are raiding bird or other wildlife feeders, remove the feeders from your yard 

o Burn off or clean grills and smokers with bleach 

o Never intentionally feed bears or leave food out for bears 

o Do not try to pet the bears 

For more information, see the bear information page located at http://www.hurlburt.af.mil/library/index.asp.