Reports of bears are on the rise in Highlands County.

According to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, six calls have come in about bears since July 17, when a small bear was running through downtown Avon Park.

It’s not unusual for bears to be out and about this time of year. They’re more active during the summer, according to the FWC.

On July 19, a bear was spotted in a tree near a home on Tortoise Road. The bear climbed down and ran off on its own.

Then on July 23, a bear was reported to be knocking over trash cans on Fara Street. That same day, a bear had reportedly gotten into some bee hives. And another was on the front porch of a home on Sumach Avenue!

Then on July 26, a couple calls came in – one from Hasting Street, where a bear was in a yard eating cat food. The other was for a bear going through trash cans in Town and Country Mobile Home Park.

The very next day, another bear was spotted on Tubbs Ranch Road.

If you do come across a bear, just know that they’re not aggressive by nature, they are wild animals that can be dangerous. If you see a mother bear with a cub, you’re advised to leave it alone. Otherwise, the Highlands Co. Sheriff’s Office says your best bet is to make a lot of noise from a safe location.

You cannot shoot a bear, but the sheriff’s office says you can use a slingshot, paintball gun or bear spray if noise doesn’t work. It’s illegal to kill a bear without an FWC-issued hunting or depredation permit, unless it’s to protect someone’s life.

Shooting the bear with a firearm is not allowed, but you can use a slingshot, a paintball gun or bear spray if making noise doesn’t work. It is illegal to kill a bear without an FWC issued hunting or depredation permit, unless it is protect human life.

And make sure not to leave food in your yard!

The FWC offers these tips to keep bears away.

  • Secure household garbage in a shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
  • Put household garbage out on morning of pickup rather than the night before.
  • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
  • Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
  • Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
  • Clean grills and store them in a locked, secure place.
  • Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground - bears love fruit!

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