The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recognized one of its wildlife scientists, Mike Orlando, with the Chairman Rodney Barreto Award for 2013.
Orlando is the FWC’s assistant bear management coordinator in the agency’s northeast region, which encompasses the Ocala National Forest — home to one of the largest black bear populations in the state. It also is the area with the highest number of inquiries about human-bear interactions each year.
“I am proud of all FWC employees and the work they do for Florida,” said Rodney Barreto, vice chairman of the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and former commissioner and chairman of the FWC from 2001 until 2011. “Mike Orlando’s work last year dealing with high-profile black bear incidents reflects the highest standards of performance under pressure. I am pleased the foundation board chose Mike as the first recipient of this new award.”
Orlando is often praised for his ability to reach diverse audiences about the plight of the black bear, to remain calm, even in highly stressful situations and to use opportunities that arise to educate people about living safely in bear country. He was one of the FWC staffers who responded last fall to the scene of a bear attack that left a 54-year-old Longwood woman in Lake County seriously injured. Orlando spearheaded the FWC’s response to the incident and answered questions from the public, helped respond to numerous media inquiries and participated in cross-divisional meetings to keep everyone informed on the FWC’s response.
“Mike is an exceptional talent, and we are fortunate to have such dedicated staff,” FWC Chairman Richard Corbett said.
Among other recent accomplishments, Orlando worked with Collier County government officials to waive fees for the installation of small sheds to store garbage cans and keep the cans out of reach of bears; worked with Disney World to train more than 100 members of its staff on how to deal with bear issues on company property; and reached out to more than 1,500 people in outreach efforts, including schools, civic groups and law enforcement agencies.