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Florida wildlife officials warn more black bear sightings expected during this season

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Florida wildlife officials warn more black bear sightings expected during this season


You may see a potential increase in black bear sightings this season. 

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During this time of year, more bears are spotted in suburban and urban areas, including in Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and other portions of Florida, as juvenile bears start to leave their mother’s home in search of new locations to settle down, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC).

“Juvenile or yearling bears – between the ages of 1½ -2½ – start dispersing in spring and summer each year,” FWC’s Bear Management Program Coordinator, Mike Orlando, said in a press release. “The best thing people can do if they see a bear in an unexpected area is to give them plenty of space and to never approach or feed them and they will typically move along on their own.”

TRENDING: Video shows battle between swimming bear and 2 Florida gators

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Though you may see the curious creature in unexpected places, like your residential neighborhood, wildlife officials said it should not cause for alarm. It is important, however, for residents to secure items such as food and garbage, pet food and bird feeders, which could attract a bear.

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The FWC said the black bear is not typically aggressive, but will defend itself if it feels threatened.

MORE: Big bear wanders inside Florida home and is scared off by homeowner

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It’s also important to keep dogs close when walking them and to be aware of your surroundings, to prevent a problem with the wild animal. 

If you are having an issue with a bear, spot one that is injured or dead, or know of someone feeding them, you’re asked to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). 



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Disney to invest $17B in Florida resort, paving way for possible 5th theme park

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Disney to invest $17B in Florida resort, paving way for possible 5th theme park


Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) have a deal.

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It lays the groundwork for Disney’s expansion in central Florida, highlighted by the company’s $17 billion investment and the possibility of a fifth major theme park.

District leaders said the deal is intended to provide “significant capital improvements” within the district. The development agreement is good for 15 years.

“This is a great day in terms of certainty,” CFTOD Vice Chair Charbel Barakat said. In terms of economic development, I think the impact is going to be immeasurable.”

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Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, responded to the agreement’s approval with a statement to FOX 35 News.

“This new development agreement paves the way for us to invest billions of dollars in Walt Disney World Resort, supporting the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy, and allowing us to deliver even more memorable and extraordinary experiences for our guests,” Vahle said. 

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Plans for development aren’t specific, but Disney could also build 2 more minor parks, expand hotel room capacity by more than 30% to roughly 53,000, and increase retail and restaurant space by 20%.

Universal Orlando expands Epic Universe acreage, nearly doubling original size

John Saccheri, a park blogger with BigFatPanda.com, said Disney’s framework for expansion fuels a battle with Universal Orlando for market share.

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“I definitely think there’s a war, Saccheri said. “Don’t let anybody tell you there’s not. There’s definitely a nice fight going on.”

Universal’s Epic Universe is slated to open in the summer of 2025. The company also announced plans to use 1,300 acres.

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“I think Disney has to respond in some way to that, so I do feel like we’re lucky,” Saccheri said. “We’re going to get bigger attractions. Hopefully, better attractions and better quality attractions.”

An exact timeline for Disney’s expansion plans was not released.



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Florida’s 2024 hurricane season arrives with a rainy deluge

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Florida’s 2024 hurricane season arrives with a rainy deluge


Dangerous flooding from a tropical disturbance inundated much of southern Florida on Wednesday, blocking roads, floating vehicles and delaying the Florida Panthers on their way to Stanley Cup games in Canada against the Edmonton Oilers.

The disorganized storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly the same time as the early June start of hurricane season, which this year is forecast to be among the most active in recent memory amid concerns that climate change is increasing storm intensity.

The disturbance has not reached cyclone status and was given only a slight chance to form into a tropical system once it emerges into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Regardless of development, heavy rainfall is forecast to continue across portions of the Florida peninsula during the next few days,” the hurricane center posted on its website Wednesday.

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Numerous roads were flooded and impassable for vehicles. On major artery Interstate 95 in Broward County, southbound traffic was being diverted around a flooded section and contractors were on their way to pump the drainage system, the Florida Highway Patrol said in an email. The interstate wouldn’t reopen until after water is drained, the agency said.

The Miami weather service office issued increasingly dire warnings.

“Life-threatening flooding is now ongoing,” the service said on the X social media platform. “Please stay off the roadways and get to higher ground.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis declared a state of emergency late Wednesday afternoon.

“Due to ongoing heavy rainfall, several roadways throughout the City of Fort Lauderdale, including major thoroughfares like Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway near downtown are experiencing high water levels,” the mayor said on X.

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In nearby Hollywood, Mike Viesel was driving home Wednesday afternoon with his dog Humi when he was caught in deep floodwater along a low-lying street, he told the Miami Herald.

As he slowed down and stopped, Viesel said other cars drove past him, sending even more water into his vehicle. His engine stalled.

“I’d walk out of my car,” he told the Herald, but his dog “has a problem with water.”

In Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, the lobby of the building that Alfredo Rodriguez moved into a year ago already had water puddles inside on Wednesday morning. He told the Miami Herald the building has flooded five times since he moved in.

“It was a surprise to me. I want to leave this place in the next three months. This is horrible. I can’t pull my car around,” he said of the flooded streets.

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Dozens of flights were delayed or canceled at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The NHL’s Florida Panthers were delayed more than three hours from departing Fort Lauderdale for their nearly six-hour flight to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s already been a wet and blustery week in Florida. In Miami, about 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain fell Tuesday and 7 inches (17 centimeters) in Miami Beach, according to the National Weather Service. Hollywood got about 5 inches (12 centimeters).

More rain was forecast for the rest of the week, leading the weather service office in Miami to extend a flash flood watch through Thursday. Some places could see another 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain.

The western side of the state, much of which has been in a prolonged drought, also got some major rainfall. Nearly 6.5 inches of rain fell Tuesday at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, the weather service says, and flash flood warnings were in effect in those areas as well.

Forecasts predict an unusually busy hurricane season.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates there is an 85% chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be above average, predicting between 17 and 25 named storms in the coming months including up to 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes. An average season has 14 named storms.

Fort Lauderdale was hit hard in April 2023 with record rainfall totals ranging from 15 inches (38 centimeters) to 26 inches (66 centimeters). Many homes and businesses were flooded.

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Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno in Edmonton, Canada, and Freida Frisaro in Cooper City, Florida, contributed to this story.

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FAU poll has Trump leading Biden in Florida, tightening US Senate race for Rick Scott

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FAU poll has Trump leading Biden in Florida, tightening US Senate race for Rick Scott



FAU pollster and political science professor Kevin Wagner said Donald Trump continues to run strong among Hispanic voters and, especially, white voters without college degrees.

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Crimson Florida is more competitive than most red states with presumptive GOP White House nominee Donald Trump and incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Scott in closer races than conventional punditry would suggest.

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That’s according to a new Florida Atlantic University-Mainstreet Research poll of Sunshine State voters released Wednesday that finds former President Trump leading President Joe Biden by just four points, 46% to 42%.

However, that lead grew to six points among those identifying as “likely” voters. It also extended to six points among all voters when independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was added to the selections.

The poll showing the 45th president with a lead outside the “dead heat” three-point margin of error was released as Trump plans to celebrate his 78th birthday Friday with a speech at one of his fan clubs, Club 47, in West Palm Beach and preps for a June 27 debate with Biden.

FAU pollster and political science professor Kevin Wagner said Trump continues to run strong among Hispanic voters and, especially, white voters without college degrees.

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“That’s the base for Donald Trump and he does particularly strong there,” said Wagner. “You can see the margin between Donald Trump and Joe Biden among that group is pretty stark and that’s where a lot of the strength for the Trump vote is coming from.”

Just as tight is the contest for the U.S. Senate seat, with Republican incumbent Scott topping potential Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell by just four percentage points, 46% to 42%, with 10% of those asked saying they were uncertain.

The poll found Mucarsel-Powell could be the clear choice among Democratic voters in the August primary. She led another Democratic candidate, Alan Grayson, by 31 points, 44% to 13% — but with 39% undecided.

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“This is probably the biggest change we’ve seen since we started polling in Florida,” said Wagner, who is associate dean of Research and Creative Achievement at FAU.

He noted that in an April poll Scott led Mucarsel-Powell, the Miami-area former congresswoman, by a double-digit margin, 52% to 36%.

“We still have Scott with a lead but the race has tightened quite a bit,” Wagner said. “Some of that is, no doubt, due to the fact that Mucarsel-Powell really wasn’t well known when we first started to poll this race … As people get to know her, they tend to like her and you can see that in these tightening numbers.”

The poll also found that the economy (37%) and immigration (18%) topped the list of concerns for poll respondents, and those are two issues Republicans are campaigning on in Florida and across the United States. Abortion rights, an issue many state Democrats here and elsewhere are making a central theme of their campaigns, ranked third (15%).

Antonio Fins is a politics and business editor at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at afins@pbpost.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

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