Black Bears of Hutchinson Island, Our Wild Past

Mr Reginald Waters with black bears killed on Hutchinson Island, around 1930.  (Photo credit Sandra Thurlow, Sewall's Point," A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida's Treasure Coast"/Reginald Waters Rice)
Mr Reginald Waters with black bears killed on Hutchinson Island, around 1930. (Photo credit Sandra Thurlow, Sewall’s Point,” A History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast”/Reginald Waters Rice)

When I was a kid, I had a favorite stuffed animal; he was orange bear with blue eyes and his name was “Beary Bear.” I carried him around until his eyes fell off and my mother sewed new ones back on. Over the years, all of his fur came off  so he was bald.

There wasn’t a whole lot “to do” growing up in Stuart in the 1960s and 70s so a kid had to rely on the freedom of empty lots, friends, and  his or her imagination to have any fun.

Before dinner, I used to climb to the top of a giant cedar tree in our back yard and look at the ocean and Indian River Lagoon from our house in St Lucie Estates, in Stuart. I carried Beary Bear up about forty feet with me and we talked about the black bears out there on Hutchinson Island and how there were just a few secret ones left,  a few Mr Walters and the other pioneers couldn’t catch, and didn’t kill. That was fantasy.

According  to historian Alice Luckhart, the black bear population on Hutchinson Island was completely wiped out by about 1930.  (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2012/feb/03/historical-vignettes-when-bears-roamed-hutchinson-/)

Before modern man came and planted bean fields and produced honey, the bears ate turtle eggs, palmetto berries and the riches of the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River. But they they became a problem, so we “wiped them out.”

Isn’t it amazing to think of where we  really live? A land where not too long ago a panther may have swum across the St Lucie Sound;  or a black bear happily frolicked along the Indian River Lagoon? Where fish were so plentiful they kept you awake at night. What I don’t understand is why we “wiped them out.” I guess times were harder then and the mentality was 100% “man over nature” but it’s fun to imagine what it would be like if we hadn’t killed them all,  or somehow, we brought them back.

Well, Beary Bear is long gone, and the bean farms have been replaced with million dollar homes and unimaginative condominiums. But I still have my imagination and somewhere out there, there’s a bear;  I’m sure of it.

11 thoughts on “Black Bears of Hutchinson Island, Our Wild Past

  1. Thanks Angel Jacqui, I So Look Forward To Your Amazing Posts, They Are Interesting, Educational and Just Plain FUN !! Please keep them coming !! I am Native to PBC Growing up on the LW Lagoon before sea walls at the Southern Blvd. Eco-system. I had my first little boat at age 7, exploring the Preserves and Islands that are still there. I remember building forts on stilts, at high tide we would fish straight down from our fort. . We had the little green pump up Coleman stove. At High tide we would catch tasty Toadies and fry them up immediately after collecting Clams and Oysters and on a good day Shrimp !! Oh The GOOD OLD DAYS !! ( 1960 ) Lee@Intracoastalecosystems.com

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  2. hi- i just recently drove to Gaineville for the Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival for the screening of a friends film that my son had edited – https://www.facebook.com/WhosAfraidOfTheCapeCodBear?ref=br_tf . We had one of the local fish and wildlife reps who has been dealing with black bears for years. Male Bears leave their packs to look for love – the black bear in Florida is alive and well and procreating ! If one could swin the Cap Cod Canal and go to Provincetown then maybe one could come back here.

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