Florida Black Bear by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Wikimedia Commons
Florida Black Bear by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Wikimedia Commons

One of the points I like to emphasize with my writing about nature is that all too often we think about it as a nebulous concept or a distant wilderness. But that is not at all how things are. Nature is all around you, often right outside your door. We like to think of ourselves as separate because we have done so many things to alter the landscape and remove ourselves from the natural world.

I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. It’s just a fancy way of saying that things have a tendency to fill in areas that are relatively barren. There is no thought process involved (the phrase isn’t meant literally), but the idea can be observed on scales both large and small. Molecules will move from areas of high to low concentration. Air will move from areas of high to low pressure.

But what does this have to do with Southwest Florida?

Well, you’ve probably guessed from the title, but we had a rather conspicuous visitor caught on camera in North Naples a few weeks ago. It even made the local news.

Large Bear Strolls Around Florida Neighborhood, NBC News

The woman in the video in the news article linked above was, understandably, frightened by the large animal so close to her home. However, it’s clear she also understands that the possibility of such an encounter is something ‘she signed up for’. Black bears, Ursus americanus (the only species of bear we have in Florida) are omnivorous and highly intelligent. Like any large mammal, if they feel ‘compacted’ they will branch out and seek new spaces, ‘filling the vacuum’ so to speak.

You don’t always need to go out in search of nature. Sometimes, it finds you instead. Just remember that when that happens, treat those organisms with the same amount of respect that you would want (this does not mean treating them like people or pets, respect includes treating them like the wild creatures they are). Don’t feed the wildlife. A fed bear (or gator, etc.) is often a dead one. Be cautious, but be appreciative. They are just trying to adapt to the changes we have imposed on the nature all around us.