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Human/Bear Encounters

When wildlife feels threatened by people, they typically try to tell us to back off in their own way.  For example, a rattlesnake rattles its tail and an alligator opens its mouth and hisses. 

If a bear feels threatened, they may clack their teeth together, moan, blow, huff, or stomp the ground. They may bluff charge (run toward you and then stop before reaching you).  These are all ways the bear is showing you it is as uncomfortable with the situation and it wants you to give it some space. These are NOT indications of aggressive intent or an imminent attack. Truly predatory or aggressive black bears are rare and eerily silent.

Guide to Bear Behavior Levels

Adult black bear standing in natural setting

If you see a bear from a distance:

  • Enjoy the experience, but do not move toward the bear, if your presence changes the bear's behavior you are too close 

If you encounter a bear at close range:

  • Remain standing upright
  • Speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice
  • Back up slowly toward a secure area, be sure you are leaving the bear a clear escape route
  • Avoid direct eye contact - bears and other animals may view this as aggressive behavior
  • Stop and hold your ground if your movement away seems to irritate instead of calm the bear


  • Make any sudden or abrupt movements
  • Run - running can trigger a chase instinct and bears can sprint up to 35 mph
  • Play dead - black bears eat things that play dead or are dead
  • Climb a tree - black bears can climb 100 feet up a tree in 30 seconds 
  • Approach or surprise a bear, especially one that may be injured 

If a black bear attacks you:

  • Fight back aggressively. People have successfully fended off black bear attacks using rocks, sticks, or even their bare hands!

If a bear is threatening the safety of humans, pets or livestock, or causing property damage, contact FWC.

Bears are wild animals and must be respected. Even though they are typically quiet and shy animals, they have the potential to seriously harm or kill people. Do not take unnecessary risks!  While bear attacks on people are extremely rare in Florida, people have been bitten and scratched by bears defending themselves, cubs, or food sources.