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Florida Black Bear Festival is Saturday

For immediate release: March 21, 2010
Contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426

Florida Black Bear Festival is Saturday

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is once again a proud partner in the Florida Black Bear Festival, an event dedicated to helping people understand and live in harmony with the fascinating Florida black bear.

The family-oriented festival, now in its 12th year, is scheduled for Saturday, March 26, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cadwell Park in Umatilla, south of the Ocala National Forest. The free event is a great way for families to spend a few hours together doing something fun and educational at the same time.

There will be numerous informative and entertaining programs about black bears and living in bear country. At 10:30 a.m., Kate Marshall, an award-winning documentary producer, will show some of her “The Season of the Bear” documentary series, with FWC biologists available to answer questions and give updates on some of the bears featured in this presentation.

At 12:30 p.m., wildlife biologist Andrea Boliek will give an exciting presentation about “the bear facts.”  Learn about different species of bear and myth-versus-fact about the black bear.

Finally, at 2 p.m., wildlife biologist Mike Orlando will discuss interactions between bears and people and how to ensure a positive and safe experience. He will also speak about bear behavior and the science and techniques used to discover the secrets of a bear’s life.

Meanwhile, deep in the Ocala National Forest, FWC bear research biologists Walter McCown and Brian Scheick will lead field-trip participants through natural bear habitat and explain a bit of bruin natural history. Field trips begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be repeated every hour. The bus for the last field trip leaves the festival grounds at 1:30 p.m.

In addition, there will be tours of the Black Bear Scenic Byway and the historic Carr Cabin in the Ocala National Forest.

At the festival grounds, the FWC is proud to bring back an activity for children of all ages called “Come Be a Bear!”  This is an interactive journey through the seasons that helps children experience how a black bear really lives in the wild. See what a bear likes to eat, how it prepares for the winter and what its den is like.

FWC biologists will be on hand to answer all your bear-related questions. They’ll display a “buffet” of a typical bear’s diet – both the healthy, natural kind and the problem-causing kind only humans can provide.  Learn the difference and be surprised at some of the things bears will eat and how biologists know.

The FWC will also display examples of bear-resistant garbage cans, an electric fence, a bear-resistant wildlife feeder and a trap used to capture bears.
There will be plenty of literature about bears and other wildlife, and the very popular FWC traveling exhibit trailer will be on hand with its wildlife diorama display.

“Our goal is for festival-goers to learn everything they always wanted to know about the Florida black bear, and have fun while they learn,” said Jessica Basham, the FWC’s bear festival coordinator.

Central Florida boasts the highest density of bears in the state and can truly be called bear country. But that distinction brings with it the responsibility to learn how to live with bears with minimal conflict.

“Helping people understand bear behavior has always been one of the FWC’s primary goals for the festival,” Basham said. “If people who live in bear country understand what makes bears tick, they will know what they can do to discourage bears from causing problems in their homes and communities.”

The festival is presented by Defenders of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the city of Umatilla, the FWC and the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the 12th annual Florida Black Bear Festival, call 352-669-3511 or visit http://umatillachamber.org/BlackBearFest/.