Clean up, reward aimed at Bookertown's bear problem

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Stephen Hudak

Published May 5, 2017


A Bookertown bear nearly ruined Evelyn Kreinbring’s Christmas.

She stepped outside her home in Bookertown, a small neighborhood in Sanford, with a sack of holiday trash on Christmas eve when a nosy black bear spied her. The big animals are common in Bookertown, which is close to forested woodlands including the Black Bear Wilderness Area.

“When he looked up and seen me, he started running like, towards me,” she said. “I was glad it was to where I could get into the house and shut the door.”

On Saturday, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission employees will join other volunteers for a community cleanup in Bookertown, part of an effort to remove trash that may lure bears from the woods.

Easy access to community trash is considered the root cause of many bear problems as the aroma of left-over pizza, day-old doughnuts and other discarded snacks lure the animals into neighborhoods.

About two weeks ago, a female black bear, believed to be about 6 years old, was found dead in Bookertown Park, apparently shot to death.

The Humane Society of the United States, which has donated lock-top, bear-resistant trash bins to other bear-troubled neighborhoods in Seminole, put up a $5,000 reward Wednesday for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the bear’s killer.

Harming or killing a bear in Florida is illegal without a permit — and breaking the state law carries possible jail time, a fine or both.

Florida black bears frequently roam Bookertown, a small neighborhood in northern Seminole County near a forested woodlands. The Humane Society of the United States has offered a $5,000 reward in connection with the killing of a bear in the community's park.


“It’s disturbing that someone would just shoot a bear and leave her body in a park,” said Kate MacFall, Florida state director for the Humane Society. “Our native bears face enough challenges already without someone going around and randomly killing them.”

Nearly 250 bears were killed on Florida highways last year.

State wildlife commissioners voted last week to put off another Florida bear hunt until at least 2019. The 2015 hunt — the state’s first in two decades — killed more than 300 bears before it was called off after two days.

Kreinbring, who has lived with bears in Bookertown for 35 years, doubts the community cleanup will discourage bears from wandering in to raid trash bins. She said she usually sprays her garbage can with a shot of Febreze air freshener or a splash of Mr. Clean to cover up any odor of a tasty leftover.

“I don’t think they’re interested in eating Mr. Clean,” she said of bears.

Since December, she also carries an air horn to scare off bears. A bear tore a screen door at her son’s home nearby, also in December.

In the coming weeks, Seminole County will purchase hundreds of bear-resistant trash containers and offer them at reduced rates to residents and homeowners associations west of Interstate 4, including the Bookertown community.

Under the program, homeowners will be charged $126 for each 64-gallon container — with a lock top. For homeowners associations, each container will cost $42. However, residents or neighborhoods that fall under the federal poverty limits will be eligible to receive the containers free of charge.

Some residents in Bookertown may qualify for those free containers, county officials said.

Seminole officials said Friday they’ll start accepting applications for the bear-proof containers in May. The county expects to take delivery of the containers in June or July.

Florida wildlife agents have visited Bookertown dozens of times in recent months to look into reports of nuisance bears and a possible illegal feeding of bears in a nearby community, Astor Farms, according to state records.

Kreinbring said people who feed bears put the animals and people at risk.

“That’s what I was wondering, too,” she said of her late December brush with a bear. “When that bear seen me, he might have thought I had food for him. ...”

Usually, she said bears are “sort of afraid of you and they’ll run off.”

Not this time.

She thinks a neighbor’s barking dogs chased the bear away.