Keep bears in the woods
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
"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
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
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