Be bear aware!

  • Published
  • By Col. Brad Webb
  • 1st SOW commander
Recently, I've been increasingly concerned about bears on Hurlburt Field. Because the Eglin range is classified by the state of Florida as primary range for black bears, I'd expect a few sightings each year. 

However, in the last two weeks, I've received nearly daily reports of bears in our housing areas, on the airfield and on the golf course. These bears are seen at all times of the day and are very close to people. Because of the increased bear activity in close proximity to our working environment and residential communities, Hurlburt leadership is fully engaged to ensure the safety of the Team Hurlburt workforce, visitors and residential families. 

Our first step in dealing with the recent bear activity was to increase awareness and educate the base populace. We dispatched flyers to our housing residents outlining the do's and don'ts of living with bears. We discussed the situation at various venues including commander's calls and base advisory committees to spread the word to everyone to report bear sightings immediately. Additionally, we utilized the Hurlburt Field public Web site and the Commander's Access Channel to spread the message. 

Next, we focused on deterring the bear encroachment around our work, housing, child care and recreational areas. Our civil engineering natural resources department partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to develop a course of action. After considering many options, the commission opted to set traps. Last weekend, two bears were trapped and relocated off base to another natural black bear range in the state. While we are confident these two bears accounted for most of the recent sightings and nuisance behavior, please keep in mind some key tips to avoid future issues with bears here on Hurlburt Field: 

- Never feed or attempt to feed the bears
- Outside housekeeping is critical. Proper storage or securing of work/residential garbage and other bear attractants such as pet food, birdseed or dirty barbecue grills is a proven method for discouraging bears and preventing nuisance problems around homes
- Never approach a bear and never run from a bear
- If the bear will not leave the area, get inside a car, home or a building
- During a close encounter with a bear, remain standing upright, avoid direct eye contact and back up slowly
- If the bear climbs a tree, contact security forces at 884-7777 or the environmental flight 884-4651

Lastly, I ask everyone to increase their situational awareness of the recent bear activity on base. Please report all sightings to the installation control center at 884-8100 or the security forces law enforcement desk at 884-7777.