Beware the Bears

By Kate Peterson  |  Investigative Reporter

Ave Maria has a bear problem. Although black bears have often been sighted throughout the years in Ave Maria, this fall the bears have been particularly regular. Recently the bears have been visiting the night before and morning of nearly every garbage pick-up day in Emerson, Maple Ridge, Hampton, and Middlebrook.

On the night of September 11, an Ave Maria resident posted a video to the Facebook group Ave Peeps that showed a large black bear running through the yards of houses on Milano. Several residents reported on the Facebook group that their garbage cans had been knocked down and been rummaged through on the morning of September 12. In the past, black bears have also been seen on Annunciation Circle and outside of popular student hotspots such as the Queen Mary Pub.

Black Bear

They may be cute, but don’t be deceived: bears can be a real danger in communities. The Florida Black Bear is commonly a source of disturbance in human populations.

Although the bears have not caused any injuries to date in Ave Maria, they do have a history of being aggressive. The Ave Herald reports that in September of 2012 a state law enforcement officer fatally shot a bear in Ave Maria after it charged at the officer. Before the officer had arrived at the scene, the bear had chased a resident into a car and then jumped on top of the vehicle. Since then, however, Ave Maria has taken precautions in an attempt to help solve the problem. Garbage can only be put out during certain hours on the morning of garbage pick-up dates instead of the night before. Bear traps have been also tried in the community, but have not been reported to be successful.

It is important to be on alert for bears on and off campus, especially late at night and in the early morning hours when it is still dark. If you are going out by yourself during this time, be sure to bring a cellphone with you, or at least let others know where you are going. Taking necessary precautions will help prevent the occurrence of dangerous situations.


  1. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
  2. If the bear is not an immediate threat to your safety, call the non-emergency sheriff substation at 239-252-9300 to report the bear sighting.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission gives the following guidelines if you encounter a wild bear:

NEVER approach or surprise a bear.

“If you are close, do not make any sudden or abrupt movements. Back way slowly and be sure the bear has an obvious escape route.

“Do NOT turn your back, play dead, climb a tree or run. Back away slowly into the house or secure area.

Avoid direct eye contact. Bears and many other animals may view this as aggressive behavior.”


Cover Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife on Flickr.

Photo of black bear courtesy George Pankewytch on Flickr.

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