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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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