'ROGUE BEAR': Honey raid, bear's death spark relocation debate

Matt Algarin
A black bear has been helping itself to the pollen inside of these bee hives at the Miramar Beach home of Peter Wright for quite some time now. Wright said he has notified wildlife officials about his issues on multiple occasions.

Peter Wright has had his fair share of run-ins with a black bear as of late, and after the bear demolished his bee hives and tore up his back door he says something has to be done.

"I walk out there and there's this huge bear," the Miramar Beach resident said of his most recent encounter at his home. "I scared it and it ran up the tree."

"This bear has been a problem for months," he added. "It's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, or the bear is hit by a car and killed."

Just days after his encounter, officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Walton County Sheriff's Office responded to an accident that involved a black bear that was struck and killed by a car near the Maraville subdivision on the south side of U.S. Hwy. 98.

While it's not clear whether this is the same bear that Wright encountered in his backyard, it is very near to Wright’s home in Holiday Shores Estates.

There have been a number of bear sightings in Destin and Walton County over the last few weeks, with some of the sightings ranging from commercial businesses such as Another Broken Egg and Target to residential neighborhoods in Indian Bayou, Regatta Bay and on the harborfront at Marbella Condominiums.

Both the bear that toured Destin last month and the bear killed Tuesday morning have been identified as adult male bears. FWC officials say the bear killed in Miramar Beach weighed between 175-200 pounds, and was found in the same vicinity where multiple complaints had been filed.

After contacting the FWC about the bear menacing his beehives, Wright said he was told to take proper precautions to prevent a bear from being attracted to his property, which included installing an electric fence and eliminating potential food sources.

"They don't want me to have a garden or my bee hives?" he said. "At some point common sense has to apply. Honestly, I think that the state of Florida [is]100 percent responsible for the damage that has occurred, because they are trying to protect a rogue bear."

"They have to be so politically correct that they are putting people in danger," he added.

But officials from the FWC say that relocation is not a simple solution.

"We remove very few bears because we have no place to put them," said Stan Kirkland, an FWC public information coordinator. "Our experience tells us that a lot of these bears that are removed from an area come back to where they were moved from."

Wright told The Log that the state agency has been asked numerous times by concerned residents to relocate the black bear.

"It's just a recipe for disaster," he said. "They could have captured this animal any time in the past month — heck, they could have captured it last night."

But Kirkland cites multiple examples of recent relocation efforts that didn't work as planned, as the bears migrated back toward where they could easily find food.

"You could make the point in cases that it doesn't work," Kirkland said. "It's not the solution people think it is."

Kirkland said black bears have a "tremendous sense of smell" and denying them food sources is the key to solving the problem.

As an avid fisherman and hunter, Wright, who owns the Ships Chandler in Destin, said he has no problems sharing land with the bears, but when they are affecting him directly and endangering people and property it's a different story.

"It's a beautiful animal and a wonderful creature," he said. "They have the right to live — but not in my backyard."

The Log toured Peter Wright's beekeeping operation in 2010. Read more and see photos, click here.