SAFETY HARBOR — Philippe Park, 2525 Philippe Parkway in Safety Harbor, reopened at noon Thursday, June 3, after it was closed temporarily due to a black bear sighting by a park ranger.
Pinellas County Parks and Resources Department closed the park June 1 after the bear previously seen in Safety Harbor was spotted in the park.
The bear also was seen in Clearwater, according to a Facebook post from Clearwater police, which detailed a sighting by Dave Scrivener, manager of the Countryside Recreation Center.
Scrivener had just turned off Countryside Boulevard onto Sabal Springs Drive about 6 a.m. May 29 when he spotted something “quite large” right in front of his vehicle, said the social media post.
"He was sitting right in the middle of the road," Scrivener said in the post. "At first I thought it was a big dog.“
But it wasn’t.
"This was a pretty good-sized bear, this was no cub," he said. "It was a big bear."
The bear climbed a nearby tree and then into the adjacent Misty Springs condominium complex. Scrivener called 911 and his wife, and told a woman who was jogging to stay away.
Representatives from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded, as well as Clearwater Police, but the bear could not be found.
Scrivener told police that he had seen his share of alligators and coyotes before, but this was his first bear.
Since June 1, Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies, park staff and FWC have been working to secure the park and locate the bear so they could attempt to capture it.
FWC received reports June 3 of two verified sightings of the bear several miles away, moving in the direction of a more suitable habitat. Officials decided it was safe to reopen the park.
Tips for bear encounters
FWC recommends that anyone who see a bear to not move toward it. If a bear is encountered at close range, you should remain standing upright and speak to the bear in a calm and assertive voice. Slowly back up toward a secure area, leaving the bear a clear escape route and avoid direct eye contact.
Stop and hold your ground if your movement appears to irritate, rather than calm, the bear. Do not make any sudden movements, run, play dead, climb a tree, or approach or surprise a bear. Human-bear conflicts can be reported to the FWC's Southwest Regional Office at 863-648-3200.
To learn more about Parks and Conservation Resources, visit www.pinellascounty.org/park.