Florida Black Bears in Grayton Beach

Florida black bears were spotted in Grayton Beach on July 18, 2013. They weren't sunbathing on the actual beach or swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, but they were hanging out in the pine trees by Mystic Porte and the Shops of Grayton. Although black bears are common in this part of northwest Florida, it's not every day you see them. In fact, this was the first time I've seen black bears outside of the zoo. The kids and I went out to Andy's art gallery and drove down Logan Lane to see the furry visitors. Apparently, the mama bear and baby bear had been hanging out in the tree all day. I'm not an expert, but my guess is that they were waiting for people to leave so they could raid the dumpster behind Hurricane Oyster Bar & Grill.

The Florida black bear is a subspecies of the American black bear that has historically ranged throughout most of Florida and southern portions of Alabama and Georgia. The large black-furred bears live mainly in forested areas, which surround Logan Lane, Mystic Porte, and the Shops of Grayton. So, it's not a surprise that they were spotted there.

Florida black bears are typically large-bodied with shiny black fur, a light brown nose, and a short stubby tail. The average male weight is 300 pounds and a few have grown above 500 pounds. I'm glad we didn't run into the dad! Florida black bears are mainly solitary, except when in groups or pairings during mating season, so maybe that's why he wasn't around. Or maybe he was hiding in the forest, daydreaming about mauling all of us. Hard to say! Females generally weigh less and on average are about 198 pounds. Average adults have a length of between 4 feet and 6 feet. I have no idea how old or how big this baby is, as it was hard to tell while standing on the ground looking up. However, I do think the baby bear would have looked adorable in footed pajamas. Ha!

The current black bear population in Florida is estimated at more than 3,000 bears. In addition to black bears, wildlife that calls our local habitat home includes sea turtles, herons, egrets, white tailed deer, fox, coyote, raccoon, gopher tortoise, numerous species of birds, alligators, deer quail, turkey, and wild boar. I would rather not meet most of those animals face-to-face, but it was cool to see the black bears from a distance yesterday in Grayton Beach.