FWC urges residents to be 'bear aware'

FWC says bears are looking for mates, residents should be on the look out

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FWC encourages Florida residents to be "bear aware"

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding homeowners that bears are moving around, foraging for food and looking for mates. Breeding season for bears runs from June to July

According to FWC bear management program coordinator Dave Telesco, the agency is seeing an increase in calls about bears in neighborhoods around the state. The animals are lured into neighborhoods to feast on unsecured trash.

His advice is not to feed the bears. It is also illegal to feed bears in Florida.

"Problems arise when bears have access to people-related food sources such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, birdseed or livestock feed," Telesco said. "Bears learn very quickly to associate people with food, and this puts the animals at increased risk of illegal kills or crossing highways and getting hit by vehicles."

Black bears normally are too shy to risk contact with humans, but their strong food drive can overwhelm these instincts.

Keeping food inside and bringing out the trash the morning of pickup, rather than the night before, will help keep bears in wooded areas and away from neighborhoods, according to Telesco.

"If you see a black bear, remain calm. Don't run. Walk calmly toward a building or vehicle and get inside," Telesco said. "If you have children or pets, bring them inside. Once you are in a secure location, encourage the bear to leave by banging pots and pans, blowing a car or air horn or whistle. The more stressful a bear's encounter with you, the less likely it is to come back."

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

Residents can get more safety tips and learn more about living with black bears at MyFWC.com/Bear.

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