Lehigh family concerned for kids after home bear encounter

It was a loud noise outside a family’s home in Southwest Florida that let them know they had a visitor early Saturday morning.

We’ve reported separate incidents when bears visited neighbors at homes in Lehigh Acres

That’s exactly what the Salazar family shared with us in a recording of a Florida black bear messing with their trash bins at their home along Bell Boulevard in Lehigh Acres this weekend.

“The bear came through here and right to the garbage can,” Hugo Salazar said.

We showed you the recording from the Salazar family’s home Saturday. We went to the family’s home Sunday, where they told us they have concerns for their own child and other neighborhood kids, who could have potential bear encounters like theirs.

“I heard when the garbage can fell at 1:30 in the morning,” Salazar said. “I was still up, and that’s what caught my attention and started looking, and there he was.”

The recording shows the bear knocking over trash cans on the side of the Salazar’s home and rummaging through garbage.

“I’ve never had a bear issue,” Salazar said. “This was our first bear encounter.”

But it’s the safety of the kids in his neighbor that concerns Salazar and other neighbors the most. His family’s home is right across from a bus stop, and their son often plays outside.

“If this bear is out right across the street somewhere, and he’s calling this place home, he’s only feet away from those children right over there, who are waiting for that bus,” Salazar said.

Other nearby neighbors we spoke to also expressed concern for bear-human conflicts in the neighborhood.

“It’s very concerning, considering a bear, sometimes if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone,” neighbor Jeff Royburon said. “But you never know.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says food is the main factor that attracts bears. Securing trash is one way to keep them away.

Anyone who encounters a bear should make sure to be in a safe place and ensure the bear has an escape route. Then, use something to make a loud noise to scare the bear away.

FWC also said neighbors can put trash cans in bear-resistant containers, or secure the area around trash cans to help keep bears away. FWC also reminds neighbors it’s illegal to feed bears.

MORE: FWC BearWise Tips

Salazar hopes his new air horn will protect his son if he ever encounters a bear.

“They can easily carry this in their backpack, in their pocket,” Hugo said. “If they’re waiting for the school bus, they want to keep it somewhere they can reach in rapidly and pull it out and blast it.”

Salazar also wants other neighborhood kids to also be aware of bears nearby.

“The ones that are out there waiting for the bus before the sun comes up, we need to let them know what to do in a bear encounter,” Salazar said.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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