Remove food attractants to reduce conflicts with bears

As spring temperatures warm, bears are becoming more active, increasing opportunities for conflicts with people. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds Florida residents and visitors to remove food attractants to reduce negative interactions with bears and other wildlife.

“Bears are coming out of their winter dens and they’re searching for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “Secure trash, pet food, bird feeders and other food items that could attract a bear to your yard or neighborhood. If you don’t give them a reason to stay, they’ll move on.”

Female bears give birth to 12-ounce cubs near the end of January and are beginning to travel with their young, which could now weigh 5 to 10 pounds. As the cubs continue to grow, the family unit will roam farther and likely be observed by people more often.

While black bears generally are not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida. Never intentionally approach any bear. When walking dogs, keep them close to you – preferably on a non-retractable leash – and be aware of your surroundings. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.

To keep bears away from your home and neighborhood, follow these simple tips:

  • Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
  • Put household garbage out on the morning of pickup rather than the night before.
  • Modify your existing garbage can to make it more bear resistant.
  • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
  • Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
  • Encourage your homeowner’s association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Feed pets indoors or bring in leftover food and dishes after feeding outdoors.
  • Clean grills and store them in a secure place.
  • Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and bushes and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

It is illegal in Florida to harm, intentionally feed bears, or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.

As bears increase their movements this time of year, they also increase the number of roads they cross. For the safety of yourself and bears, 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 240 Florida 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 feel threatened by a bear or 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. Help us help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the Conserve Wildlife tag at WildlifeFlorida.org/CWT.

Spring is an active time for many of Florida’s wildlife species. For more information on wildlife in Spring, visit MyFWC.com/News and click on “Spring Wildlife News.”