In this day and age, the suburbs are generally considered to be a safe place. There aren’t all that many threats to our lives in suburban America outside of a few drunk drivers and the occasional criminal on the run from the law. This is especially true of Naples, Florida, a city just packed with wealthy retirees and my hometown. However, the last week I spent in Naples before returning to Orlando for the semester, I heard about a new threat to the suburbanites: bears. Several large black bears were being spotted roaming around the neighborhoods of North Naples looking for food and shelter, and paying a startlingly low amount of attention to the fact that they were surrounded by people. Some were seen on golf courses, others on the side of the road, and there was one well-documented case of a bear breaking into a family’s lanai (this is a large, screened-in back porch for those of you who are unacquainted with the term) and napping for a few hours before wandering on its way.
So why were these bears suddenly present in neighborhoods where they had never been spotted before? The same classic reason that causes so many animals to relocate: deforestation. Recently, large areas of forest in the Naples area have been cleared in order to begin the development of new neighborhoods, and these forests had residents that needed to be evicted before the new human residents could move in. The bears were among these animals who lost their homes and food sources, and with nowhere to go and nothing to eat, they decided to move over to our territory and try their luck with it. I’m sure they had no idea that they were engaging in appropriate retaliation when they invaded our homes, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony. I’m aware of the fact that housing developments need to be built, in fact, I live in one myself. I just think that we should be aware of the consequences, for us and for nature, before we cut down forests to build them.