Biologists in Wellington set trap for bear

By Chuck Weber - email

WELLINGTON, FL (WFLX) - Bears are almost unheard of in Palm Beach County, yet, again, Tuesday there were three to four more sightings of a black bear in Wellington. Biologists decided it was time to try and catch the creature.

Fish and Wildlife Commission biologists rolled out a bear trap, which was essentially a culvert pipe, with bait placed inside. When the bear grabs at a bag of food at the far end, it sets off a mechanism closing the door to the pipe. The bear is trapped.

"We're just trying to be proactive," explained FWC biologist Dave Sweetay. "Catch him before he gets hit by a car or we have bigger problems of some kind." Most of Tuesday's sightings were along the C-51 canal and busy Southern Boulevard, across from Palms West Hospital. Two drivers actually saw the bear on Southern. Sweetay says his agency hopes to relocate the bear, likely to Collier County, home of the closest black bear population.

Biologists feel this is likely a male pushed off territory in Collier County. The bear is likely looking for a new place to live and feed, only FWC biologist Jim Schuette says this is not the right spot. "They require so much habitat and connected habitat," said Schuette, "and we just don't have that any more on the East Coast."

Nearby neighbors expressed shock at the prospect of bears in Wellington and our area at all. Erin McMahon, who grew up in Loxahatchee, says when she returned from the Keys last week, something had ripped apart one of her trash containers. She dismissed it as the work of a raccoon. And it could have been, but now? "Now you guys are saying bear," laughed McMahon. "I'm kind of nervous. I did not know there were bears here."