Skip to content

Tips to stay safe around bears as fall approaches

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As fall approaches, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding people that black bears in the state are most active in the search for food

FWC says residents and visitors can help prevent negative interactions with bears and other wildlife by securing trash, removing food attractants and following other BearWise practices.

People should stay vigilant in the fall because that’s the time bears tend to eat more calories to build up fat stores for the winter, even if they aren’t hibernating like they do in colder climates, according to the FWC. The agency says that any accessible food source, such as unsecured garbage, pet food or bird seed, can attract a hungry bear preparing for winter, which could lead to conflict with people.

“Adult bears need to eat about 20,000 calories a day during the fall,” says FWC bear management program coordinator David Telesco. “Given the chance, bears will take advantage of easy meals from things including unlocked trash cans and bird feeders. However, if the bears don’t find a food source in a neighborhood, they will move on.”

FWC offers six basic BearWise tips to avoid attracting bears to your neighborhood and help prevent negative interactions with bears and other wildlife:

1: Never feed or go near 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 trash that attracts bears and causes conflict.
  • Approaching a wild animal is dangerous.

2: Safe food and garbage

  • Store trash in a sturdy shed or garage and then take it out the morning of collection instead of the night before.
  • If not stored in a secure building, modify your existing dumpster to make it more bear-resistant or use a bear-resistant container.
  • Secure commercial trash in bear-resistant containers.
  • Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fences.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and bushes and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

3: Remove or secure bird feeders

  • Remove bird feeders where there are bears.
  • If bird feeders are left out, only put out 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 outdoors, only place food outside for short periods of time and bring in leftover food and dishes after each feeding.

5: Clean and store the 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 for activity

  • If you see a bear, let your neighbors know.
  • Share tips on how to avoid conflicts with bears.
  • Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute statutes or ordinances requiring trash to be kept safe.

FWC says that while black bears are generally not aggressive, they can hurt people and pets, adding that dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears; 60% of the incidents in Florida in which bears injured people involved dogs. The agency advises that when walking dogs, keep them close to you, preferably on a non-retractable leash, and be aware of your surroundings. FWC also says that before you let your dog out for the night, turn the lights on and off and bang on the door so bears and other wildlife have a chance to flee.

As bears increase their movements in search of food this time of year, they also increase the number of roads they cross, according to the FWC, adding that for the safety of you and the bears, remember to slow down when driving, particularly on country roads at sunrise or sunset. Watch for road signs identifying known bear crossing areas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.