Making a Difference in Our Community: Edie Gaythwaite Protects Black Bears

Since the 1980s, Florida’s black bear population growth has, in many ways, paralleled the growth of their human counterparts. In fact, black bear growth according to the 2014-2015 count by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are an estimated 4,030 black bears with the central region claiming 1,193. Just as the human population in Florida has accelerated so has the black bear population, which is why there is such a need to educate the public on how to live in bear country.

Unfortunately, while human population growth is continually accommodated by additional housing developments, these developments often encroach on the bears’ natural habitats — making uncomfortable and unwelcome confrontations between humans and black bears increasingly common.

So, what do we do?

That’s where people like our own Edie Gaythwaite, professor, speech, step in.

Edie is one of 40 people who serve in the Central Bear Stakeholder Group, which is a group dedicated to addressing the growing human-bear conflict. As the college/university representative in the group, she helps educate the public about ways to peacefully live in bear country, presents at elementary schools, addresses community concerns and provides input on legislative issues such as the passage of stricter bear-feeding laws.

“Collaboratively,” she says, “we were the first to write homeowner association regulations establishing the first official BearWise Community (Wingfield North) and the first BearWise County (Seminole) in the State of Florida.”

To help contribute to solving the problem, Edie says keeping garbage secure is the number one way to reduce bear activity, and if interested in taking the first steps toward making your community BearWise, contact her.

For more information, contact Edie at egaythwaite@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 2485.

Throughout Valencia’s 50th anniversary year, to celebrate the College’s service to our community, we will feature stories of Valencia’s community impact and the volunteer efforts of our colleagues. Whether you volunteer as a board member of a foundation or you serve meals to the homeless, we want to hear about it because every act of kindness is worth celebrating. To submit a Valencia volunteer story, simply email the_grove@valenciacollege.edu the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your photo (preferably of you volunteering)
  • Where you volunteer and a description of the organization
  • How long you have volunteered with that organization
  • Why you choose to volunteer with that organization
  • What you enjoy most about volunteering with that organization

6 Comments

  • Karen Murray said:

    Kudos to Edie for educating on this very important issue! Thank you for your work, Edie.
    (I wonder, though, if carrying around a bear carcass like it's normal is a good message for kids? I'm sure Edie explains how wrong it was to take this beautiful bear's life.)
    I find the comparison between the Florida black bear population (4,030) and the Florida human population (20,271,272) noteworthy.
    (2015 stats)

    PMTue, 07 Mar 2017 22:09:39 +0000Tue, 07 Mar 2017 22:09:39 +0000pm17,10:09 pm

    • Edie Gaythwaite said:

      Thank you for your comments Karen. Bearnard was hit by a car on SR 46. He provides an opportunity for kids to touch his fur, his ears, look at his long claws, etc. His presence also leads to great questions such as, "what happened to his insides?" Many have seen bears and Bearnard serves as a powerful tool for educating kids and adults alike about living among this majestic wild animal.

      AMWed, 08 Mar 2017 08:50:49 +0000Wed, 08 Mar 2017 08:50:49 +0000am17,8:50 am

  • Marcelle Wycha said:

    You're an inspiration, Edie. Thanks for all your passion and dedication!

    AMWed, 08 Mar 2017 09:22:50 +0000Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:22:50 +0000am17,9:22 am

    • Edie Gaythwaite said:

      Thank you for your kind words, Marcelle.

      AMWed, 08 Mar 2017 10:44:07 +0000Wed, 08 Mar 2017 10:44:07 +0000am17,10:44 am

  • Aaron said:

    Great work, Edie!

    PMThu, 09 Mar 2017 15:49:02 +0000Thu, 09 Mar 2017 15:49:02 +0000pm17,3:49 pm

  • resham shirsat said:

    Thank you for all the great work you are doing in the community Edie! We need more people like you fighting for our natural places and biodiversity. Thank you for protecting it 🙂

    AMTue, 14 Mar 2017 11:46:33 +0000Tue, 14 Mar 2017 11:46:33 +0000am17,11:46 am

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