Annual festival in Lake County teaches the 'bear' essentials about the Florida Black Bear and other native wildlife species.
|The Florida Black Bear and Wildlife Conservation Festival is held on the second Saturday of October from
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cadwell Park located at 4 Cassady St. in Umatilla. For more information about the festival, call (352) 669-3511 or log on to
The purpose of the Florida Black Bear and Wildlife Conservation Festival is to increase awareness and promote the safe coexistence of humans and wildlife by fostering community appreciation of the Florida black bear and other native wildlife species, as well as Florida’s unique ecosystems that serve as wildlife habitat.
The Florida Black Bear and Wildlife Conservation Festival is a free, family-oriented educational event.
The festival was started as a one-day festival 14 years ago with the primary goal of promoting awareness of the Florida black bear and living safely in bear country. Partners included City of Umatilla, the U.S. Forest Service, the Defenders of Wildlife, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce, and through the years have had an opportunity to educate thousands of people about bears. We have also expanded our partnership to include Lake County and The Black Bear Scenic Byway.
Back then, the Florida black bear was listed as an imperiled species; more recently the bear has been removed from the imperiled species list. That means the bear's population numbers have increased to a point that it is no longer in danger of disappearing. Whenever a species is removed from the imperiled list it is a wildlife conservation victory and tribute to the measures that were and still are in place to protect the species. This year we are excited to expand the focus of the festival to include not only the Florida black bear, but other native wildlife species, both imperiled and common.
There are a number of benefits to expanding the festival's focus, including more and new wildlife species information, speakers and activities. Presentations throughout the day will provide information on Bear biology and habitat, living with Coyotes, living with Panthers and Discovering WILD Florida. Check our website at umatillachamber.org/blackbearfest for the presentations schedule and more information.
"The Florida Black Bear Festival is a fun event full of activities, presentations and field trips that provide participants with information about how bears live; bear behavior; how we can avoid attracting them to our homes; and how we can live and recreate in bear country safely" said Susan R. Martin, Executive Director of the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce.
The one-day educational event is fun for all ages as thousands of Floridians and guests are expected to attend the free bash in honor of the black bear. Each year the event grows as more than 8,000 people attended last year’s festival. A popular highlight of the festival is the two-hour field trips into Ocala National Forest bear habitat conducted by the U.S. Forest Service.
The field trips are by bus and include a moderate hike to a site where the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists will provide participants with interactive lessons about bear biology, behavior and management. Reservations fill quickly on a first-come basis and festival attendees are encouraged to register early to reserve a spot.