UF expert shares safety tips as campus bear remains at large

As officials continued to patrol parts of the University of Florida campus where they last spotted a bear Thursday evening, a wildlife ecologist offered advice about staying safe in the event of a bear encounter.

bear on campus
Officials and passersby gather under a cypress tree where a Florida black bear is resting. Photo by Kristen Grace, Florida Museum

Calmly walk away from the animal and don’t make aggressive moves, said Mark Hostetler, a professor of wildlife ecology with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS). Unless a bear feels threatened or is protecting its cubs, it will almost always leave people alone.

Hostetler also stressed the importance of keeping food out of reach.

Bears are attracted to urban areas by unsecured waste containers, as well as by bird feeders and pet food left out in the open, he said.

The bear spotted on UF’s campus Thursday is a Florida black bear, likely a lone yearling that dispersed from the Ocala National Forest or San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, Hostetler said.

The UF Police Department (UFPD) first learned about a wayward bear near campus through a Facebook post published earlier in the week, said UFPD Captain Latrell Simmons. The post described a sighting near the 34th Street wall.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, a passerby on Mowry Road called UFPD to report seeing a bear in a cypress tree adjacent to the sidewalk bordering the Lake Alice Conservation Area. As officers gathered, a crowd of onlookers congregated across the street near the entrance to the Aquatic Pathobiology Laboratories and the UF Health Cancer Center. Under a blazing sun, they snapped photos as the bear altered its position in the shade. At times, the animal appeared to nap, its legs dangling from tree branches at least 30 feet above the crowd.

bear cage
A trapper loads a wildlife cage with donuts in an effort to lure the bear down. Photo by Megan Winslow, UF/IFAS

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) called a contracted trapper to catch the bear and release it within the Ocala National Forest. Traveling from Mount Dora, he arrived at about 2:30 p.m. with a wildlife transport cage on wheels. He filled the cage with donuts and engaged a lever that would slam the cage door shut if the bear stepped on it. Officers cleared the area.

At about 7:30 p.m., UFPD and FWC officers watched from a distance as the bear descended from the tree. It eschewed the donuts, choosing instead to wander south across Mowry Road and disappear into Lake Alice South, a wooded area between Mowry and Archer roads.

Simmons said officers will continue to patrol the area, including the adjacent UF Health Medical Plaza, throughout Friday. The cage is staged at the FWC office on Williston Road in case of a sighting.

Anyone who spots the bear on campus is asked to contact the UFPD by calling the agency’s non-emergency number, 352-392-1111.

*Top photo by Kristen Grace, Florida Museum

Video: A bear visits the University of Florida’s campus


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

ifas.ufl.edu  |  @UF_IFAS


Megan Winslow
Posted: June 14, 2024

Category: Conservation, UF/IFAS, Wildlife
Tags: Bear, Department Of Wildlife Ecology And Conservation, Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC, Institute Of Food And Agricultural Sciences, Kristen Grace, Lake Alice, Lake Alice Conservation Area, Latrell Simmons, Mark Hostetler, Megan Winslow, Mowry Road, Ocala National Forest, San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, UF/IFAS, UFPD, University Of Florida, University Of Florida Police Department, Wildlife, Wildlife Ecology

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