The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received reports about a black bear in the Macclenny area, west of Jacksonville, this week.
"The bear apparently broke into a home at 2 a.m. Monday and grabbed food items, including a birthday cake," said Karen Parker, FWC public information coordinator.
An FWC biologist went to the scene Tuesday to assess the situation.
"There was a well-used trail behind the house and quite a bit of garbage that had been spread around by the bear. Remains of the birthday cake also were scattered on the ground," Parker said.
Wildlife officials have set up a culvert trap and baited it with cupcakes, since this bear seems to like cake, according to Parker.
"The bear has been part of an FWC research project on Camp Blanding and is outfitted with a white collar and two ear tags. Biologists are monitoring the bear. It's easy to identify," Parker said.
According to the tracking information at 5 a.m. Tuesday, the bear has moved several miles south of Macclenny and is on the south side of Interstate 10.
"We are attempting to capture the bear," Parker said. "Relocating this bear is not an option. Public safety is our No. 1 concern. When we catch it, we will euthanize it. We do not want the bear entering another house."
Black bears normally are too shy to risk contact with humans, but their strong food drive can overwhelm the instinct to get away from humans.
"When bears have access to unnatural food sources such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, birdseed or livestock feed," Parker said, "they quickly learn to associate people with food."
Properly storing or securing garbage is a proven method of discouraging bears. Bird feeders and barbecue grills should be stored in a secure place, such as a garage or a sturdy shed. Place garbage cans outside on the morning of pickup, rather than the night before. People can encourage their neighbors, community or local government to use bear-resistant trash containers or dumpsters .
"People can also help by feeding pets indoors or bringing in dishes after feeding," Parker said.
If you see a black bear, remain calm. Don't run away. Walk calmly toward a building or vehicle and get inside.
"If you have children or pets, bring them inside. Encourage the bear to leave. Bang pots and pans, or blow an air horn or whistle. The more stressful the encounter with you, the less likely the bear is to come back," Parker said.
If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Remove people and pets from the area. The bear usually will come down and leave when it feels safe.
If the bear is threatening the safety of humans, pets or livestock or is causing property damage, report it to the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
Residents can find out more about living with black bears  at MyFWC.com/Bear.