Fall is the most active time of year for Florida black bears as they stock up on calories for the coming winter. Though black bears don’t really need to put on pounds to survive the state’s usually mild winters, they behave as if they do – eating about three times as much as usual.
Because bears are now busy filling their bellies, residents in Wakulla and Franklin counties may have even more bear sightings than usual. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks people to be extra diligent in securing food sources around their homes and businesses that can attract bears and create problems.
“Preventing bears’ access to food is the most important thing people can do to keep bears and other wild animals out of neighborhoods,” said Capt. Rob Beaton, area supervisor for the FWC. “If you are a Florida black bear, raiding a garbage can to eat leftovers may be more appealing than foraging in the woods for palmetto berries and acorns.”
It is against the law to have food and attractants out for bears to access. And as bears are looking for food, the easier a food item is to get, the more likely it is that a bear will take advantage of it.
Bear-related calls to the FWC are up this year in many parts of the state. The FWC has received 152 calls in Wakulla County and 131 in Franklin County so far this year. Last year’s totals were 110 and 93, respectively.
“Now more than ever we are relying on residents to keep bears from getting rewarded for being in neighborhoods,” Beaton said. “You can call your local trash pickup companies for options. Waste Pro in Wakulla and Franklin counties offers a $6 retrofit to trash cans that has proved effective.”
To keep bears away from your home and neighborhood, follow these tips:
§ Feed your pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.
§ Secure household garbage in a shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
§ Put household garbage out on the morning of pickup, not the night before.
§ Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters with metal lids or metal-reinforced plastic lids and lock bars.
§ Clean grills and store them in a locked, secure place.
§ Remove wildlife feeders, or make them bear-resistant.
§ Protect gardens, apiaries, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
§ Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
§ Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute ordinances on keeping foods secure that would attract wildlife.
“Conflicts between Florida black bears and people are preventable,” said Beaton. “Most people who follow the FWC’s advice on how to bear-proof their homes and businesses don’t have conflicts with these large and powerful wild animals.”
Go to MyFWC.com/Bear to learn more about living in bear country.