News Releases

Gainesville residents urged to be 'bear aware'

News Release

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received several calls about a black bear in the southern Gainesville area.

FWC biologists have responded several times to this bear during the past week.

“At this point, we’re not planning to trap this bear,” said Eric Dennis, FWC wildlife assistance biologist. “We want to use aversive conditioning such as bean bags fired from shotguns and paint ball pellets to let the bear know that being around people isn’t a pleasant experience.”

This bear isn’t returning to one particular place, so putting out a culvert trap would be ineffective.

The most important thing to remember is, do not entice the bear with food.

“Problems arise when bears have access to unnatural food sources such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, birdseed or livestock feed,” Dennis said. “Bears learn very quickly to associate peoples’ property with food, and this puts the bear at increased risk because of traffic, poaching or management action.”

Black bears normally are too shy to risk contact with humans, but their strong food drive can overwhelm these instincts. Residents can help this bear “move on, ” so it does not become a problem.

“We’re hoping that if people remove the attractants, the bear will return to Paynes Prairie,” Dennis said.

Properly storing or securing garbage is a proven method of discouraging bears. Birdseed and barbecue grills should be stored in a secure place, such as a garage or a sturdy shed. Garbage can be placed outside on the morning of pickup rather than the night before. People can encourage their neighbors, community or local government to use bear-resistant trash containers or dumpsters.

“Another way people can help is to feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding,” Dennis said.

Relocating the bear is not a good option, Dennis explained.

“Relocation is stressful to bears and often places them in another bear’s territory. Often, a relocated bear may try to return to its original home and, in the process, cross busy roads, creating a danger for itself and motorists,” Dennis said.

“Another reason not to relocate bears is that it requires chemically immobilizing the animal,” Dennis said. “This subjects the bear to additional stress with no guarantees of how it will react around people before it goes to sleep or how it will handle the drug.” 

“If you see a black bear, remain calm. Don’t run away. Walk calmly toward a building or vehicle and get inside,” Dennis said. “If you have children or pets, bring them inside. Encourage the bear to leave. Bang pots and pans, or blow an air horn or whistle. The more stressful a bear's encounter with you and your property, the less likely it is to come back.”

If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Remove people and dogs from the area. The bear usually will come down and leave when it feels safe. This will most likely not occur until after dark.

If the bear is threatening the safety of humans, pets or livestock or is causing property damage, it should be reported to the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Residents can find out more about living with black bears at

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