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State officials seek to prepare Floridians regarding bears

FWC has taken 4,630 bear-related calls this year

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nuisance bears can be a scary sight, and state officials want to make sure people are prepared.

If someone were to come face to face with a Florida black bear, would he or she know what to do?

David Telesco, with the state's Fish and Wildlife Bear Management program, wants to help.

"All of our state agencies want people to know how to exist with bears, what to avoid, how to avoid conflicts and so we're all getting behind this idea of 'bear wise,'" Telesco said.

Ramping up education efforts and getting people "bear wise" is a priority for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It has taken 4,630 bear-related calls this year.

"It means that I know who to call, and I know (that) when there's an issue, I know how to interact with a bear. I know that we can scare them away and we should keep our trash and other things secure," Telesco said.

Earlier this year, FWC canceled the second year of a planned bear hunt.

The hunt, which is designed to manage bear population, was scrapped after controversy surrounded the 2015 hunt.

A bear season will be considered again next year but in the meantime, people need to know how to handle a potential bear-human conflict.

"So we know it's intensifying, and we have to get that word out that you can coexist with bears as long as you know what to do," Telesco said.

FWC is in the process of doling out more than $800,000 in grant money to cities and counties for bear conflict solution programs.

FWC said it is trying to incentivize local governments to acquire bear-proof trash cans in certain areas. People who feel they may need one can go to myfwc.com and contact its bear management program.