Now that spring is here, black bears in Florida are becoming more active. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is sharing BearWise tips to help prevent conflicts between people and bears.
Residents and visitors alike can reduce the potential of negative interactions with bears and other wildlife by removing food attractants and following other BearWise® practices.
“Bears become more active during the spring in search of things to eat, including female bears teaching their cubs where to find food” said the FWC’s Bear Management Program Coordinator, Mike Orlando. “By removing attractants such as garbage, pet food and bird seed from around your property, you can help ensure that bears won’t find an easy meal. When bears can’t find food sources, they’ll move on.”
To avoid attracting bears to your neighborhood and help prevent conflicts, follow these six BearWise Basics:
1: Never feed or approach bears
- Feeding bears can make them lose their natural fear of people.
- It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause conflicts.
- Getting close to a wild animal is dangerous.
2: Secure food and garbage
- Store garbage in a sturdy shed or garage and then put it out on the morning of pickup rather than the night before.
- If not stored in a secured building, modify your existing garbage can to make it more bear-resistant or use a bear-resistant container.
- Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
- Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
- Pick ripe fruit from trees and bushes and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
3: Remove or secure bird and wildlife feeders
- Remove wildlife feeders.
- If wildlife feeders are left up, only put enough food out for wildlife to finish eating before dark and make feeders bear-resistant.
4: Never leave pet food outdoors
- Feed pets indoors.
- If feeding pets outdoors, only put food outside for short time periods and bring in leftover food and dishes after each feeding.
5: Clean and store grills
- Clean and degrease grills and smokers after each use.
- If mobile, store them in a secure shed or garage.
6: Alert neighbors to bear activity
- If you see a bear, let your neighbors know.
- Share tips on how to avoid conflicts with bears.
- Encourage your homeowner’s association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure.
Black bears are generally not aggressive but they have injured people in Florida. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.
When walking dogs, keep them close to you – preferably on a non-retractable leash – and be aware of your surroundings. Before letting your dog out at night, flip lights on and off and bang on the door to give bears and other wildlife a chance to leave the area.
As bears become more active this time of year, they cross more roadways. For your own safety and to avoid hitting bears and other wildlife, remember to slow down when driving, particularly on rural highways at dawn or dusk. Watch for road signs identifying bear crossing areas. Each year in Florida, an average of 250 bears are killed after being hit by vehicles.
Having conflicts with bears? Call one of the FWC’s five regional offices. Go to MyFWC.com/Contact, and click on “Contact Regional Offices” to find the phone number for your region. If you want to report someone who is either harming bears or intentionally feeding them, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
More information is available at MyFWC.com/Bear, where you can access the “Guide to Living in Bear Country” brochure. Find additional ways to be BearWise at BearWise.org. Thirty-eight states, including Florida, support BearWise®, an innovative program that helps people learn ways to responsibly live around bears. Help us help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the Conserve Wildlife license plate at WildlifeFlorida.org/CWT.