OCALA, Fla. -- Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission say as bears get ready for winter, more people are reporting bear sightings.
Drivers on Highway 19 in the Ocala National Forest have reported seeing a bear near the road that they thought might be hurt.
Susan Carroll-Douglas, a biologist with the commission, says when she went to check out the reports, she found a bear sitting on the shoulder of the road eating acorns. Carroll-Douglas says many people will call to report bears they think may be sick or injured when autumn begins, but most of the bears are trying to put on fat stores for the winer and are eating anything that's convenient.
Carroll-Douglas says preparations for winter mean more people could see bears in their area.
“If you live in most counties in central Florida, you very likely live in bear country," she says. "You may see bears frequently, or not at all, but they are living nearby. During this time of year, even those who rarely or never see bears may find one in their yard or walking around the neighborhood munching on acorns and other natural foods."
Officials say signs that a bear is nearby include garbage being spread around, bird feeders ripped down and livestock or pet food raided. They say to lock up garbage, take down bird feeders and pick up food after feeding animals outside to discourage bears from coming near you.
If you see a bear in your yard, officials recommend making lots of noise by honking car horns, banging pots and pans or yelling to make the bear move away.