News Releases

Mark your calendar for the Florida Black Bear Festival

News Release

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is once again a proud partner in the Umatilla Black Bear Festival, an event dedicated to helping people understand and live in harmony with the fascinating Florida black bear.

The family-oriented festival, now in its 11th year, is scheduled for Saturday, March 27, from 9 4 p.m. at Cadwell Park in Umatilla. It's free and is a great way for families to spend a few hours together doing something fun and educational at the same time.

New this year is a contest to design a practical, bear-resistant garbage container. The top three winners will each get $100 gift cards to Lowe's and be recognized on the FWC's website.

FWC biologists will give informative and entertaining programs about black bears and living in bear country. At 10:30 a.m., wildlife biologist Tom Shupe will discuss interactions between bears and people and how to ensure a positive and safe experience. At 12:30 p.m., wildlife biologist Andrea Boliek will give an exciting presentation about "the bear facts."  Learn about different species of bear, and myth-versus-fact about the black bear.

And finally, at 2 p.m., join the FWC's bear management coordinator, David Telesco, for a talk about bear behavior and the science and techniques used to discover the secrets of a bear's life.

Meanwhile, deep in the Ocala National Forest, FWC bear research biologists Walter McCown and Brian Scheick will lead field-trip participants through natural bear habitat and explain a bit of bruin natural history. Field trips begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be repeated every hour. The bus for the last field trip leaves the festival grounds at 1:30 p.m.

Back at the festival grounds, the FWC is proud to introduce a new activity for children of all ages called "Come Be a Bear!"  This is an interactive journey through the seasons that helps children experience how a black bear really lives in the wild. See what a bear likes to eat, how it prepares for the winter and what its den is like.

FWC biologists will be on hand to answer all your bear-related questions. In addition, they'll present a buffet of bear cuisine - both the healthy, natural kind and the problem-causing kind only humans can provide.  Learn the difference and be surprised at some of the things bears will eat and how biologists know.

The FWC will also display examples of bear-resistant garbage cans, an electric fence, a wildlife feeder and a trap used to capture bears.

There will be plenty of literature about bears and other wildlife, and the very popular FWC traveling exhibit trailer will be on hand with its wildlife diorama display.

"Our goal is for festival-goers to learn everything they always wanted to know about the Florida black bear, and have fun while they learn," said Jessica Basham, the FWC's bear festival coordinator.

Central Florida boasts the highest density of bears in the state and can truly be called bear country. But that distinction brings with it the responsibility to learn how to live with bears with minimal conflict.

"Helping people understand bear behavior has always been one of the FWC's primary goals for the festival," Basham said. "If people who live in bear country understand what makes bears tick, they will know what they can do to discourage bears from causing problems in their homes and communities."

The festival is presented by Defenders of Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Umatilla, the FWC and the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the 11th annual Umatilla Black Bear Festival and details about the bear-resistant garbage can contest, call 352-669-3511 or visit

FWC Facts:
Black bears originated in North America, and have been here at least 1.5 million years.

Learn More at AskFWC