Black Bear Visits Jupiter’s Backyard and Returns to the Wilderness

JUPITER — Doug Covin was in his garden on Saturday in Jupiter trying to hang a planter on a branch of his large oak tree when a piece of bark fell to the ground.

He looked up and saw an uninvited guest – a 150 pound juvenile black bear that had probably been in the tree for several minutes.

“It was a few meters from me,” he said. “At first, he didn’t register. So I say to myself: it’s a bear and he’s staring at me. I’m used to seeing the occasional opossum or raccoon, but a bear? It’s a first.

He called 911.

Covin did exactly what the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recommends if you come into close contact with a bear: “Never feed it, give it space, or try to approach it.

The bear was never threatening, Covin noted, adding, “It never hissed or growled. It was very quiet. If it hadn’t been for the bark falling to the ground, I might not have noticed.”

The Jupiter police have arrived. Then several FWC agents.

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They kept people away from the bear. FWC considered using a tranquilizer, but decided against it because they were concerned the bear would roam nearby streets before feeling the effects of the tranquilizer, Covin said.

Eventually the bear climbed down from the tree and returned to the wildlife preserve to the west, Covin added. FWC officers set a trap in the neighborhood to catch the bear if it returned. The bear would then be relocated to a wildlife refuge. Covin said he hoped the bear was already back in its habitat.

Covin lives just north of Center Street near the Intracoastal Waterway, which means the bear had to stray quite far from its habitat to get there.

The happy ending was quite different from what happened last month in Royal Palm Beach when a black bear entered a residential area. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputies shot and killed the bear over the objections of the FWC.

An FWC report accuses sheriff’s deputies of mishandling the situation, noting that black bears are a protected species in Florida. The sheriff’s office said it stands by its decision, saying deputies killed the bear to protect area residents.

FWC said the best course of action is usually to allow the bear to wander away from any homes and back into the wilderness, which is exactly what happened to Jupiter.

FWC spokeswoman Arielle Callender said the bears are more active this time of year. Juvenile bears begin to separate from their mothers and may wander into residential areas.

Although black bears are generally not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors in bears, especially females with their cubs, according to FWC.

For Covin, his interaction with the bear is something that will stick in his memory for some time.

“Every time I hear a noise, I’m going to be like, ‘Is that another bear?’ It will take a bit of time to get over this one,” he said. “It’s not that I was scared of him. I was just shocked. But I’m so glad he left and wasn’t hurt.”

To report a bear sighting, call the FWC regional office at 561-625-5122 or its hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) if you feel threatened by a bear; observe a sick, injured, dead or orphaned bear; or to report someone who harms bears or intentionally feeds them.

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