The number of black bear attacks has been on the rise in Florida -- but it's not really because of the bears. In an interview with National Geographic, David Telesco, coordinator of the Bear Management Program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, explained that the increased number of attacks isn't the result of increased violence on the part of the bears:
We've had a boost in conflicts in Florida since the early 2000s, but it has definitely shot up in the last few years [more than 4,000 bear-related calls were made to the FFWCC in 2010]. That's because you have not just a bear population that's growing but a human one too, with high-density human populations next to high-density bear populations. The land that bears use is in high demand for housing developments. As that development occurs, it creates more opportunities for people and bears to interact. While attacks are fortunately rare, more interaction can lead to more of them.
According to Telesco, many of the reported attacks result from humans intentionally instigating contact with black bears, antagonizing the animals and prompting them to respond. It's not actually in the bears' nature to get violent:
A wild bear is normally shy; it should run away, not approach a person and huff and puff or attack. We shouldn't have situations in which people walking around a neighborhood are approached by four bears in one day. That's not natural; they are not social animals.
Telesco said they're simply responding to their surroundings. "People feed wildlife -- often unintentionally, but sometimes on purpose," Telesco said. "If an animal receives food enough so that it loses its fear of people, becomes used to people, not only does that increase the chance it will hurt someone but also that it will be hurt. Bears did not become this way without people's help."