Forgive me, but if the backpacking is going to take place in Florida, I'd say the most important issue isn't bear safety, but safety while at the Dunkin' Donuts, if you go there before the hike. Five shot, one dead, several robberies -- one in Palm Beach County -- only in Florida can eyeing a bear claw be so deadly.

There are black bears in Florida, and bear awareness is a good thing. But other safety concerns: encounters with alligators, snakes, brown recluse spiders -- it sure seems like they should be given the priority if hiking in Florida.

We've got black bears and big cats in Florida. At last count there were about 90 Florida panthers remaining, and 15 are known to have been killed in 2008 so far (the most recent, a 3-month-old kitten hit by a car in Everglades Nat'l Park on Sep. 29th.)

With the rampant overdevelopment of the past decade all over Florida (that's now taking a momentary break), bears and big cats and their territory are on the retreat. The chances of seeing either a bear or a cat hiking in the state are really rather slim compared to so many other states. Here, it's really the creature in the woods or the swamp that needs to be aware -- or beware. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />
- kevon

(avatar: raptor, Lake Dillon)