An increasing number of interactions between Florida black bears and humans in Seminole County has made headlines and forced state legislators to pass new laws.

The number of bear-human encounters is expected to increase sharply in the coming months near downtown Sanford – though these encounters will happen safely at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens (Website | Facebook).

Zoo officials announced they plan to add a Florida Black Bear Habitat in 2016 as part of the zoo’s mission to educate the public about animals and their habitats.

The zoo is also launching a new public information campaign, “Learn to Be Bear Smart,” The presentation is free for businesses, organizations and civic groups to learn more about Florida black bears and tips on how to co-exist successfully with bears.

r-BLACK-BEAR-LONGWOOD-large570Zoo President and CEO Philip Flynn said there has never been a more urgent time than now to educate the community of Central Florida about co-existing with the Florida black bear. The local community has grown and has encroached on a valuable and necessary part of the Florida ecosystem; the black bear.

“The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens recognizes its responsibility as a vital resource to our community’s learning process,” said Flynn. “We are dedicated to teaching about the animals on our planet and our responsibly to conserve, to collaborate, and to co-exist – Real. Live. Education.”

“It is essential to all of us to learn to co-exist and enjoy our surroundings without concern and fear,” added Shonna Green, Zoo Director of Communications and Community Resources. “To have our children and grandchildren play, explore, and be inspired by the beautiful and lively natural environment that makes Central Florida home. The very reason we choose to live here.”

The Florida Black Bear Habitat will feature three Florida black bears; one adult female and two bear cubs, with the possibility of adding more in the future. This habitat will have real-life instruction throughout the “bear house” where visitors will learn about proper ways to keep food sources away from bears, and a video display showing the biology and historical aspects of black bears in Florida.

BearPopulationMapDocents will teach visitors, using age – appropriate methods, about safety and life with bears. This education model is paramount to the Zoo’s mission: to be a conservation resource providing experiences that excite and inspire children and adults to learn and act on behalf of wildlife.

Zoo officials are asking the public for help to support this effort to help save bears and build this interactive habitat. Donations can be made by visiting http://www.centralfloridazoobears.org or calling 407.323.4450 ext. 115.

The zoo is also encouraging the public to participate in the new Adopt a Bear! program that can be purchased for a family member or friend.

The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a 132 acre, private 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit conservation resource since 1975. With 500 animals representing more than 200 species, the Zoo provides the community with experiences that excite and inspire children and adults to learn on behalf of wildlife. The Zoo also operates the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation in Eustis.

The Zoo is located on I-4 Exit 104 in Sanford (Gmap) and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

– by Dan Ping, rewritten from press release

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