It’s spring, and that means black bears in Florida will be more active, including moms and their cubs. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has some advice to help you avoid bear conflicts.
Mostly, they’re looking for food, so the key is not to give them anything to hunt in your backyard!
“Bears become more active during the spring in search of things to eat, including female bears teaching their cubs where to find food,” said FWC 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.”
RELATED: How to be BearWise
The FWC shared six BearWise Basics for you to remember to avoid bear conflicts:
Never feed or approach bears
Yeah, this one seems pretty obvious. If you don’t want a negative interaction with a bear -- don’t interact with a bear!
On top of making them lose their natural fear of people, it’s illegal to feed bears in Florida or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause conflicts.
Not to mention, getting close to a wild animal is dangerous.
Secure food and garbage
Since it’s illegal to leave out stuff that might attract a bear, the FWC suggests storing garbage in a sturdy shed or garage and putting it out the morning of pickup rather than the night before.
Or you could modify your existing garbage can to make it more bear-resistant or use a bear-resistant container. (Click the links for tips from the FWC on how to do this.) If you work with commercial garbage, it needs to be in bear-resistant dumpsters.
When it comes to gardens, beehives, compost and livestock, use electric fencing for protection.
Also, pick ripe fruit from trees and bushes and remove fallen fruit from the ground. The fewer easy pickings you’re leaving for the bears the better!
Remove or secure bird and wildlife feeders
We know you love watching the birds and other animals on your feeders, but when a bigger critter comes calling, you might not be smiling!
The FWC suggests either removing wildlife feeders or making them bear-resistant and only putting enough food out for wildlife to finish eating before dark.
Never leave pet food outdoors
Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs, so if you don’t want Fido in a scrape with Yogi, feed your pets indoors or only put food outside for short time periods and bring in leftovers.
Black bears are generally not aggressive but they have injured people in Florida.
While we’re talking pets -- 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.
Clean and store grills
You know that amazing smell from a grill that makes you hungry? Well, that works on bears, too!
So clean and degrease grills and smokers after each use, and if you can move the grill, store it in a secure shed or garage.
Alert neighbors to bear activity
If you do see a bear, be neighborly and let those living around you know, so they can take these safety steps, too.
If you’re part of a homeowner’s association, you can suggest it be part of the bylaws or ordinances that trash be kept secure. Or you can ask your local government to make it a requirement.
And definitely spread the word and share these tips on how to avoid conflicts with bears!
One more tip
For your own safety and to avoid hitting bears and other wildlife crossing roadways, 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.
Who to contact
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.