NAVARRE, Fla. (AP) — Wildlife officials say the number of black bear sightings is on the rise in the Florida Panhandle.
Since January, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has logged 360 calls about bear sightings in a four county area. That's up from 249 during the same period last year.
The increased number of bear sightings prompted wildlife officials and state Rep. Doug Broxson to schedule a public workshop to discuss safety measures for area residents.
Broxson told the Pensacola News Journal a black bear ran in front of him during a recent bike ride.
At last count, there were approximately 3,000 black bears living in Florida, according to FWC.
"As towns develop and new developments open up, it's a situation where we've seen across the state people who are moving into wildlife habitats; and now, they're face to face with the creatures that inhabit them," FWC spokesman Stan Kirkland said.
So far, FWC has not received reports of injuries or significant property damage among humans from the bear encounters.
The bears, however, haven't fared quite as well. According to wildlife officials, four bears have been fatally struck by vehicles this year, including one along U.S. 98 in Navarre last Wednesday.