A Florida sheriff is taking a stand against the four-legged, furry creatures wreaking havoc in his territory: bears.
Franklin County Sheriff A.J. "Tony" Smith went live on Facebook Thursday calling on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to come up with a new solution for the growing number of calls his office gets about bears in residential areas.
Some of the bear reports Smith has gotten include a group of young bear cubs, which apparently had lost their mother, were running amuck in Carrabelle, Florida, he told USA TODAY. Bears have also broken into people's garages and porches, he said. One bear even got into a woman's house in the middle of the night, causing the resident to barricade herself in her room while she called police, Smith said.
"Bear management is not my day job," Smith said in the video. "Something needs to be done. I'm not a bear biologist, but I know that there comes a time when people need to move out of the office, get out in the field, and see what's going on and that's what I'm challenging these bear biologists."
He said that he is prepared to issue a letter to the governor, the legislative delegation and the cabinet for help in the matter. "Get to work and get us a solution," Smith concluded in the video.
The video prompted the FWC's executive director to schedule a meeting with the sheriff's office, the agency said.
"The FWC Bear Management staff continue to be active in Franklin County to help educate and share information with residents on ways to prevent conflicts with bears," the agency said in a statement to USA TODAY. "FWC staff are working closely with the community and local officials on solutions to help them address any human/bear conflicts and will continue to be a resource for assistance."
Sheriff: Bear sightings on rise in Franklin County, Florida
His office has received more than 40 calls about bears in the last year, said Smith, who has served as the county's sheriff since 2017. Bears have increasingly become an issue over the last five years, he told USA TODAY.
"The bear problem is epidemic in all these rural counties. I mean, you got a bear at Disney World so you probably got bears everywhere," said Smith, referencing the Sept. 18 sighting of a bear, which resulted in the temporary closing of parts of the amusement park.
Bear complaints from Franklin County account for 21% of the calls from the East Panhandle and 3% of calls statewide, according to the FWC. Spokesperson Lisa Thompson said that bears are likely to be more active in the fall as they prepare for winter.
In a subsequent Facebook video posted Friday, Smith said FWC had set traps to catch some of the recently reported bears. Smith said he was "very happy that (FWC) are listening to our concerns and that they're taking action."
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Some of the FWC's suggested solutions for bear problems were unreasonable, Smith said during the initial video about the issue. At one point, he held up a stack of paper approximately two-inches thick and explained that it is the FWC's bear management plan.
"I almost fell out of my chair when I saw this," Smith said, before dropping it loudly on the desk in front of him. He explained later that it was too much for people to digest and did not make sense.
Thompson said that people can play a big part in helping to prevent conflict by removing food sources like garbage cans or trash feeders. "If a bear is not able to find food, it will move on," she said. "Feeding bears can make them lose their natural fear of people."
Smith said that some solutions the FWC had proposed in the past, such as electric fences, bear spray or trash guards, were too expensive.
"I'm gonna be on this until you get over here and come up with a solution that's gonna work for the bears and for the people," he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida sheriff: Bears 'not my job,' wants wildlife agency to step up