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Springtime spurs activity for Florida black bears

By Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ Posted on May 15, 2018

As spring temperatures warm, bears are becoming more active, which increases opportunities for conflicts with people. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds Florida residents and visitors they can take steps to reduce negative interactions with bears and other wildlife.

“Bears are starting to come out of their winter dens and they’re searching for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “Don’t give a bear a reason to hang around in your neighborhood. Remove anything that might attract a bear. If they can’t find food, they’ll move on.”

Female bears that gave birth to cubs that weighed only 12 ounces by the end of January are beginning to move around more with their young, which may now weigh 5 to 10 pounds. As the cubs continue to grow, the family unit will roam and will likely be more visible to people.

Female bears often roam in springtime.

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.

Florida black bear cubs are born in the Spring. FWC photo.

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 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 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 intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.

Bears moving mean more bears crossing roads. Please be on the lookout for native wildlife while driving.

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.

Bears are notorious for seeking human garbage in trash cans.

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 BuyaPlate.com.

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