Tara Turner, 26, was on her way to work at approximately 7 a.m. Friday with her 6-year-old son, Bradley, in tow when she spotted what she thought was a lifelike black bear ornament in the 7000 block of North Deltona Boulevard in Citrus Springs.
That was until the “ornament” moved.
“I’ve been in Citrus Springs my whole life and I’ve never seen one,” said Turner, a graduate of Lecanto High School. “I was on the phone talking to my husband when we saw it; he told me to take a video and a picture.”
So she ended the call and swung back around to get the video and photo of the black bear moving around the neighborhood.
“We went to Tennessee for Christmas hoping to see one, I’ve never seen one in the wild,” Turner said. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh my God.’ I never thought I’d see one in Citrus County, let alone that close to my home.”
The bear first emerged from a wooded area before making a trek across the front yard of a home.
“With the pandemic,” Turner said, “I think wildlife is comfortable to come out. Everyone is just not destroying the environment.”
Turner admitted the bear “was good size” but not trying to rifle through a trash can or enter the home.
“(Bradley) thought it was super cool,” Turner said. “He thought the bear had opened the screen door but that wasn’t the case.”
Turner quickly posted the video and photos to Facebook but also shared the news with her coworkers at Cardiac and Vascular Consultants Lecanto Florida. They all questioned her if she added a bear to her mix of pets, which includes chickens and bunnies.
“Everyone was like ‘look out,’ ‘you don’t have to worry about the coyotes now,’” she said of her friends reactions on Facebook. “I mean people live in Tennessee and see them all of the time. It’s just rare to see here. He wasn’t trying to break into a house, he was just moving along.”
Still, Turner and her son were on Cloud 9 from the experience.
“I see the bear signs all of the time in Spring Hill, but not where I am at,” she said. “This was close to Beverly hills area, a well-traveled area. It was exciting.”
While we’ve been staying at home to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, bears and other wildlife remain out and about, according to Karen Parker, spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Bears are more active in spring, and there are important steps you can take to help prevent conflicts with these animals, she added.
“Bears are currently looking for food, and they prefer an easy meal,” Parker said. “So it's important to remove or secure food sources such as garbage, bird seed, and pet food that may attract them to your yard. This helps ensure bears will not linger in your neighborhood. If they can’t find food, they’ll move on.”
During this time of year, female bears are raising their cubs, and teaching them where to find food, Parker said.
“You can help ensure a positive future for these young bears by making sure they don’t learn bad habits and associate your home as a place to find an easy meal,” she explained.
Remember, Parker said, it is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.
“While black bears generally are not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida,” Parker said. “Never intentionally approach any bear. When walking dogs, keep them close to you — preferably on a non-retractable leash — and be aware of your surroundings. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.
“The best thing folks can do is secure the attractants they may have around their yards, don’t feed the bears and watch them from a distance.”