Philippe Park reopened at mid-day Thursday, earlier than expected, after closing Tuesday morning because of a black bear sighting.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received two more verified reports of a bear sighting Wednesday morning, commission spokesperson Melody Kilborn said. The bear was seen several miles away from the park, heading toward a more sustainable habitat.
The young bear was first reported to seen Tuesday in the heavily wooded park on Old Tampa Bay in Safety Harbor. As bears as young as 18 months old establish independence from their mothers and search for a new home, they sometimes wander into populated areas, Kilborn said.
Because they move quickly, trapping bears is often not an option. But the bears are usually able to pass through urban areas to a safe habitat, Kilborn said.
Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources announced earlier this week that the park, 2525 Philippe Pkwy., would be closed through Friday. The information was updated Thursday morning. Reservations for picnic shelters at the park can now be made for Friday and later.
The bear, which was first spotted in Hernando County a few weeks ago, gained traction on social media and inspired its own Twitter account Thursday morning. @PinellasBear responded to inquiries from Pinellas County as well as news organizations.
Here’s how to behave in case you encounter a black bear, according to the fish and wildlife commission:
Don’t move toward the bear. If the bear is close, remain standing, speak calmly and assertively to the bear and slowly back away, leaving an escape route for the animal. Avoid eye contact. If the bear appears irritated by your movement, stop and stay firmly in one place. Don’t make any sudden movements, and don’t play dead, run, climb a tree, surprise, approach or try to feed the bear. Bears are shy and will usually avoid people.
To report a bear sighting, call the FWC’s Southwest Regional Office at (863) 648-3200.