Bear found wandering grounds at Tampa International Airport

He was seen repeatedly trying to scale the airport fence. Authorities think the Florida black bear got in that way and was trying to get back.

A Florida black bear seen roaming outside Tampa International Airport was trapped Wednesday after a night spent evading authorities.

A Transportation Security Administration employee caught the first glimpse of the bear walking along the airport fence near Hillsborough Avenue late Tuesday night, according to John Tiliacos, executive vice president of operations and customer service at the airport. He said it was believed to be a young male.

After the bear was spotted, Tiliacos said, officials closed off about 40 to 50 acres and set up a trap near a thickly wooded area at the north end of the property. A coalition of airport employees and wildlife management officials, as well as personnel from the Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire Rescue and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, worked together to watch the bear overnight while trapping efforts were underway, the airport said in a news release.

Tampa police helicopters circled the area and watched with infrared cameras as the animal slept on airport property Tuesday night, the release said. The bear spent the night hiding in the woods and didn’t emerge until Wednesday morning.

Wildlife commission officers tried to tranquilize the bear but did not succeed, but eventually lured it into the trap, according to the release.

Tiliacos said authorities believe the bear entered the airport grounds by scaling the fence. They watched it attempt to climb back over multiple times as they tried to capture it.

Lisa Thompson, a spokesperson for the wildlife commission, said officials relocated the bear to the Ocala National Forest later that day.

The bear sighting is a first for the airport, according to the release. But wildlife commission officials suspect this bear is the same one spotted last month in the Carrollwood area, Thompson said.

The bear did not disrupt any flights or other airport activity, the release said.

Bear sightings are more common in the spring and summer months, as juvenile bears are leaving their mothers and looking for a place to settle down.

Seeing a bear wandering around a neighborhood isn’t normally a cause for concern, according to the wildlife commission. But securing garbage and food waste is important to prevent bears from overstaying their welcome.

The wildlife commission asks that you call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) if you feel threatened by a bear.

Times staff writer Matt Cohen contributed to this report.