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Florida black bear caught at Tampa International Airport

By Leilyn Torres

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    TAMPA, Florida (WFTS) — Tampa International Airport (TPA) said a Florida black bear was captured on airport property Wednesday.

TPA said a TSA employee spotted the bear walking along the airport perimeter fence near Hillsborough Ave Tuesday evening. The employee reported it to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

TPA and FWC set up a trap and a perimeter around the wooded area in the northern portion of the airport’s property to contain the bear.

“We quickly sprung into action — our operations team together with our police department — we went to the area, we set up a robust perimeter around the area,” said John Tiliacos, TPA’s Executive Vice President of Airport Operations.

According to TPA, multiple organizations monitored the bear overnight. Tampa Police used infrared helicopter cameras to confirm the bear was sleeping inside the perimeter.

Wednesday morning, the bear emerged from the woods. TPA said FWC made two failed attempts to tranquilize the bear. The bear eventually entered the trap and was captured.

TPA said there was no risk to any employees or disruptions to airport operations. The airport said there is no previous record of bears on airport property.

FWC relocated the bear to a preserve in Ocala.

Megan Bovaird, a high schooler from Bradenton, practices her photography atop TPA’s parking garage almost weekly. Wednesday evening, she was surprised to learn of the bear sighting.

“I just thought it was surprising, because there’s planes coming in here all time, and I didn’t think there would be a bear anywhere near here,” she said.

According to an FWC map from 2019, black bear sightings throughout much of Tampa Bay are considered “occassional.” They’re “rare” along the region’s coastal areas. They’re “common” in the area around Wesley Chapel and along the Lake Wales Ridge in Polk County. Sightings are “frequent” in western Hernando County, much of Highlands County, and small pockets of Polk County.

Several sightings have been documented throughout the region in recent weeks.

One was videoed in Lake Wales in late May.

Another was spotted roaming through neighborhoods in Lutz and Carrollwood in mid-May.

According an interactive FWC map that logs bear sightings, a black bear was spotted near Town ‘n’ Country — in an area roughly a mile and half west of the airport — on May 30 and May 31.

According to the FWC, bears are more active this time of year. Juvenile bears are leaving their moms, and those younger bears may be seen in unexpected areas as they search for new home ranges.

If you see a bear, the commission says you should give it space, never approach it, and never feed it.

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