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Wild Nature

Black bear sightings on the rise in Florida's Panhandle

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May 28, 2013: Once released by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials, this 620-pound bruin -- The largest black bear ever captured in Florida -- trampled a GoPro camera in his haste. (FWC / Cindy Bennett)

Wildlife officials say the number of black bear sightings is on the rise in the Florida Panhandle.

Since January the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has logged 360 calls about bear sightings in a four county area. That's up from 249 during the same period last year.

The increased number of bear sightings prompted wildlife officials and state Rep. Doug Broxson to schedule a public workshop to discuss safety measures for area residents.

Broxson told the Pensacola News Journal a black bear ran in front of him during a recent bike ride.

Wildlife officials say four bears have been fatally struck by vehicles this year, including one along U.S. 98 in Navarre last Wednesday.