Living with Bears
Living in Bear Country
Seeing a black bear is a thrilling and rewarding experience. The presence of bears is not necessarily a problem or a threat to your safety. But it is important to remember that bears are wild animals and deserve respect. If you are not careful, you could break the law and risk both your own safety and the bear's.
Follow the following advice closely to keep bears wild and your property secure.
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
Bears are driven by their need to eat and with a sense of smell that can detect odors over a mile away, problems arise when bears gain access to food sources such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, bird seed or even livestock feed.
The calories a bear can consume by picking through one garbage can often surpasses what they can find in an entire day.
Bears are highly intelligent and adaptable, learning quickly to associate people with food. Black bears are normally too shy to risk contact with humans, but their powerful need to find food can overwhelm this fear.
As bears become "food-conditioned" (dependent on a food source) they are more likely to frequent residential areas and cause property damage to get these unnatural food sources. Over time, they become “habituated”, gradually losing their fear of humans and will return frequently to locations with accessible food.
It can take several weeks after preventative methods have been implemented before a bear will understand that the food source is no longer available.
Once bears lose their natural fear of people, often due to access to food attractants, there is often little hope to make the bear wild again. These habituated and food conditioned bears are often killed, either by vehicle collisions, illegal shooting, or as a result of bear management actions to keep the community safe.
Unfortunately, relocating bears is often not feasible. Areas large and remote enough to move bears where they won't encounter people are rare in Florida. Additionally, relocated bears typically leave the new area, either to return to their original home or to leave an area already occupied by other bears. Some bears will wander through unfamiliar areas and cross busy roads, creating a danger to the bear and to motorists.
The FWC is committed to ensuring the long-term well-being of the black bear while addressing property damage and safety concerns of residents and visitors to Florida.
It is easy to live in harmony with bears and save their lives by simply securing the temptation of trash and other attractants. There are several ways to do this:
If a Bear Comes into Your Yard
make sure that:
- you are in a safe area, and
- the bear has a clear escape route, then
- SCARE THAT BEAR!
You want to let the bear know it is not welcome in your yard, so from a safe location, scare it away by yelling, banging pots and pans, using an air horn, or anything else that makes a lot of noise.
The use of paintballs, bear spray, and sling shots are also allowed under FWC guidelines.
Once the bear leaves, take a look in your yard to ensure there is nothing that might be attracting the bear. If you see a bear is eating something on your property, take note of what it is and secure it once the bear leaves.
See our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to get an idea of how to handle a bear in your yard or in the wild.
Bears near Bus Stops
- If children have a long walk to and from the bus stop, they can carry a whistle or small air horn with them in order to scare a bear away.
- Children should NEVER feed bears, as it can put themselves and others in danger and it is illegal.
- If a bear is seen near the bus stop, children should stay in a group whenever possible and not approach the bear. They should make noise to make sure the bear is aware of their presence and/or scare the bear off.
- FWC should be notified if a bear is lingering near bus stops.
To keep bears away, follow this advice:
- Secure household garbage in a shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container (like a bear-resistant container or caddy ).
- 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 ordinances on keeping foods that attract wildlife secure.
- Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
- Clean grills and store them in a locked, secure place.
- Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant .
- Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground - bears love fruit!
- Screened enclosures ARE NOT SECURE and WILL NOT keep bears out.
Remember - if your neighbors don't become BearWise, too, the bear can tear up their yard…before coming for yours.
It is illegal to intentionally place food or garbage out that attracts bears and causes conflicts. Anything that attracts dogs, cats or raccoons will also attract bears!