News Releases

Keep bears in the woods

News Release

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Media contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130

It's that time of year again, when Florida black bears prepare for winter by loading up on calories.

"Bears are eating-machines during autumn," said Dave Telesco, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) bear management coordinator. "From now until sometime in December, most of Florida's bears will be out foraging for whatever they can find: berries, bugs, acorns and our garbage, if it's available. They'll also devour cat food and dog food if it's left out in the open."

This feeding craze is called hyperphagia. Black bears forage for up to 18 hours a day, sometimes consuming 20,000 calories. Black bears are smart: If they can find an easy meal in an unsecured garbage can, they'll go for it.  That's the main reason black bears wander into neighborhoods. Eating the dog food off the neighbor's screened porch is going to provide a lot of calories much more quickly than the time it would take to forage for acorns in the woods.

"Bears want to and should be in the wild, where they will find the food they need for the winter months," Telesco said. "And we'll be better off without a large, wild animal lingering near our homes."

Black bears in Florida are generally very shy and secretive animals that have a natural fear of people and prefer to avoid them if possible. They are also large, powerful and unpredictable wild animals capable of injuring or even killing a person under certain conditions. Unfortunately, the lure of human-provided foods reduces their wariness and increases the chances of closer encounters with people.  Although the state has not yet experienced an unprovoked or predatory bear attack, there have been several incidents in which people have been bitten or scratched.

"If a bear threatens a person, even while defending cubs, we must place human safety above the bear's life," Telesco said. "We have to euthanize bears that show aggressive behavior or that may pose a threat to public safety."

Conflicts between humans and bears are not unique to Florida; they occur throughout the United States, wherever humans and bears coexist. The FWC helps residents who live in bear country reduce conflicts by recommending practices that discourage bears from lingering in neighborhoods.

"We work with residents to help them understand what attracts bears and how best to secure those attractants so bears will never get them in the first place," Telesco said.

When all residents comply with these recommendations, bear conflicts decline dramatically and usually go away. Generally, trapping and relocating bears is not a good practice; by policy, the FWC does so only when bears continue to remain around homes, even after all attractants have been removed or secured.

Residents can minimize or eliminate these problems by securing attractants such as garbage in wildlife-resistant containers and by removing or cleaning up other attractants in the yard. If followed, these simple changes can be successful in protecting the health of Florida's diverse wildlife and its residents.

For more information on wildlife-resistant containers and to find out what you can do to avoid bear conflicts, go to MyFWC.com/Bear. Call your local waste service provider and ask the company to provide the cans that will help keep bears out of your yard.

"Conflicts with bears are preventable. The key is to keep bears wild," Telesco said. "When people follow our recommendations, the bears have no reason to stay in our neighborhoods, and the two can safely co-exist in bear country."



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