UMATILLA – The Umatilla Chamber of Commerce is inviting the community and visitors to learn about the Florida black bear and other native wildlife species at the 14th Annual Florida Black Bear and Wildlife Conservation Festival. The festival will be held on Saturday, Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cadwell Park, located at 4 Cassady St. in Umatilla.
The purpose of the Florida Black Bear and Wildlife Conservation Festival is to promote the safe coexistence of humans and wildlife by fostering community appreciation for the Florida black bear and other native wildlife species, as well as Florida’s unique ecosystems that serve as habitat.
“The festival is a fun event that is 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 Martin, executive director of the Umatilla Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s festival will be expanded to include not only programs and information about the Florida black bear, but also other native wildlife found in the area.
“There are a number of benefits to expanding the festival’s focus,” said Martin. “This includes more and new wildlife species information, speakers and activities. Presentations throughout the day will provide information on Bear biology and habitat, living with coyotes and panthers, as well as discovering wild Florida.”
The festival was started as a one-day festival 14 years ago with the primary goal of promoting awareness of the Florida black bear. Through the years, festival organizers have had an opportunity to educate thousands of people about bears.
When the festival was first introduced, the Florida black bear was listed as an imperiled species; but educational events like the festival, and increased awareness, has aided the bear’s population numbers, resulting in it being removed from the imperiled species list.
The festival is presented in partnership with the city of Umatilla, U.S. Forest Service, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Umatilla Chamber of Commerce, Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway and Lake County Economic Development & Tourism. The event is sponsored by Duke Energy and United Southern Bank.
For more information about the festival, along with its field trips and presentations, call 352-669-3511 or visit www.umatillachamber.org/blackbearfest.