As fall approaches, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds residents and visitors that our state’s black bears are more active in search of food. You can help prevent negative interactions with bears and other wildlife by securing litter, eliminating food attractants and following other BearWise® practices.
In the fall, bears begin to consume more calories to build up fat stores for the winter, even though they don’t hibernate like they do in colder climates. Any accessible food source, such as unsecured garbage, pet food, or birdseed, can be attractive to a hungry bear preparing for winter, which can draw it into conflicts. with humans.
“Adult bears need about 20,000 calories a day during the fall,” said the FWC Bear Management Program Coordinator, David Telesco. “Given the opportunity, bears will enjoy easy meals from things like unsecured trash cans and bird feeders. However, if bears can’t find a food source in a neighborhood, they will move on. to something else.
You can avoid attracting bears to your neighborhood and help prevent negative interactions with bears and other wildlife by following these six BearWise basics:
1: Never feed or approach bears
- Feeding bears can cause them to 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 conflict.
- Approaching a wild animal is dangerous.
2: Secure food and garbage
3: Remove or secure bird feeders
- Remove bird feeders where bears are present.
- If bird feeders are left in place, put in only enough food for the birds to finish eating before dark.
- Use other options to attract birds, not bears.
4: Never leave pet food outside
- Feed pets indoors.
- If you feed pets outside, only put the food outside for short periods of time and bring leftover food and dishes after each meal.
5: Clean and store grills
- Clean and degrease grills and smokers after each use.
- If they are mobile, store them in a secure shed or garage.
6: Alert neighbors to bear activity
- If you see a bear, tell your neighbors.
- Share tips for avoiding conflicts with bears.
- Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash to be kept in a safe place.
Although black bears are generally not aggressive, they can injure people and pets. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors in bears; 60% of incidents where bears injured people in Florida involved dogs. When walking dogs, keep them close — preferably on a non-retractable leash — and be aware of your surroundings. Before letting your dog out at night, turn the lights on and off and knock on the door to give bears and other wildlife a chance to escape.
As bears increase their foraging trips at this time of year, they also increase the number of roads they cross. For your safety and that of the bears, remember to slow down when driving, especially on rural roads at dawn or dusk. Watch for road signs indicating known areas of bear passage.
Do you have conflicts with bears? Call one of the five FWC 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 intentionally harming bears or feeding them, call the FWC 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 more ways to be BearWise at BearWise.org. Help us help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the Conserve Wildlife tag at WildlifeFlorida.org/CWT.