The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminded the public Thursday to be aware that bears are becoming more active this time of year. There are important things people can do over the next few months to reduce negative interactions with Florida’s largest land mammal.
“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s Bear Management Program, said. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”
With temperatures increasing, bears are out of their winter dens and are moving around in search of food. June also marks the beginning of black bear mating season in Florida. This causes bears to be more active as they search for potential mates.
Female bears that gave birth to cubs that were only 12 ounces at the end of January are beginning to move around more with their young, which may now be five to 10 pounds. As the cubs continue to grow, the family unit will roam and can be more visible to people.
While black bears generally are not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida.
Never intentionally approach any bear. When walking dogs in bear country, keep them close -- preferably on a non-retractable leash -- and be aware of the surroundings. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.
To keep bears away from homes and neighborhoods, follow these simple tips:
- Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
- Put household garbage out on morning of pickup rather than the night before.
- Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
- Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
- Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure from bears.
- Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
- Clean grills and store them in a secure place.
- Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.
- Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
It is illegal in Florida to 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 people 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.
Anyone having conflicts with bears can call one of the FWC’s five regional offices. Click here to find the phone number for a particular region. If anyone feels threatened by a bear or wants 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 bears and other wildlife by purchasing the “Conserve Wildlife” tag at BuyaPlate.com