State senator leading push to protect bears - FOX 35 News Orlando

State senator leading push to protect bears

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

A large bear is hard to ignore, hanging out in a tree house near the Wekiva River.  Randal Turner shot video of the bear in his yard. He says his family has close encounters with bears every week and during all times of the day.
        
Turner and his wife started a group called Speak up Wekiva to protect bears in the Wekiva River basin.  The state is considering selling twenty-seven acres of conservation land the bears use all the time. 

Turner says putting more homes there would increase tensions between families and bears.  He says the bears use that land for crossing and feeding.

"With the oaks and acorns there, they go there to feed," he says.  "So it's kind of a natural habitat that's left in the area where they still have a chance to get away from people."

State Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, on Monday will send a letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  He will urge the agency not to put that 27 acres up for sale. Soto is concerned about a recent bear attack, where a large female bear mauled a woman in that general area.

"We want to preserve that territory and stop too many interactions between people and bears as well to insure public safety, and to preserve that bear territory," Sen. Soto says.

The parcels in question are some of the last undeveloped acres along Markham Woods Road. Neighborhoods there contain many high priced homes, surrounded by still natural scenes.

Turner says, "If you take the last bit of woods left along Markham Woods Road, it could be pretty tragic for the bears." 

Turner urges people to contact their state lawmakers and Seminole County Commissioners to urge them to force the state not to make the land available for sale to developers.
   
Sen. Soto and Mr. Turner are not aware of any specific developers who want to buy the land, but they believe it would sell quickly if the state offers it for sale.

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