More bears, more money needed - FOX 13 News

More bears, more money needed

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It was the worst bear attack on a person ever in our state. A woman walking her dogs in central Florida was mauled last December.

The bear bit her on the head, face and neck before she could get away. Wildlife officials are now asking lawmakers for $500,000 to handle bear complaints faster.

"We're just stepping up and getting more resources to be able to go out and work with local communities and get boots on the ground," Thomas Eason with the Fish and Wildlife Commission explained. "To be out there and be a physical presence and help people understand how bears interact with people and learn how to take measures to reduce the risk of future bear attacks here in Florida."

Not long ago, bears were on the brink of extinction in Florida. Not anymore.

Now, there are more bears and more people moving into what was once considered rural areas -- bear territory. So running into one isn't that unlikely.

"Sometimes the younger bears get kicked out of home ranges and end up in strange places, so even in Tampa, people should be aware bears could be a part of their life," Eason said.

If the money is approved, wildlife officials plan to spend some of it researching how many bears are out there and where they are.

"Remember that bears have always been a natural part of Florida. People are here to stay, as well as bears.  We just need to learn how to co-exist," Eason said.

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