How to be BearWise this spring

Do you know the six basics of BearWise? They could help save the lives of your furry family members – and keep unwanted visitors from playing with your trash!

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the warmer spring means the bears are getting more active. This means they are more likely to have negative interactions with people.

They look for things to eat and the bears travel with their cubs and teach them where to find food.

It shouldn’t be in your garden!

“Bears will benefit from easy meals, such as unsecured garbage, pet food or birdseed,” said FWC bear management program coordinator David Telesco. “If the bears don’t find a food source in the neighborhood, they will move on.”

Follow the six basics of BearWise to avoid attracting bears to your neighborhood and help prevent conflicts:

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1: Never feed or approach bears

  • Feeding bears can cause them to lose their natural fear of humans.

  • It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause conflict.

  • Approaching a wild animal is dangerous.

2: Secure food and garbage

  • Store trash in a sturdy shed or garage, then take it out the morning of pickup rather than the night before.

  • Pluck ripe fruit from trees and bushes and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

3: Remove or secure bird and wildlife feeders

  • Remove wildlife feeders.

  • If wildlife feeders are left in place, only put in enough food for wildlife to finish eating before dark and make feeders bear resistant.

4: Never leave pet food outside

  • Feed pets indoors.

  • If you feed pets outside, only put the food outside for short periods of time and bring leftover food and dishes after each meal.

5: Clean and store grills

  • Clean and degrease grills and smokers after each use.

  • If they are mobile, store them in a secure shed or garage.

6: Alert neighbors to bear activity

  • If you see a bear, tell your neighbors.

  • Share tips for avoiding conflicts with bears.

  • Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute regulations or orders require waste to be kept in a safe place.

Although black bears are generally not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors in bears, especially female bears with their cubs.

When walking dogs, keep them close – preferably on a non-retractable leash – and be aware of your surroundings. Before letting your dog out at night, turn the lights on and off and knock on the door to give bears and other wildlife a chance to escape.

As bears increase their movements at this time of year, they also increase the number of roads they cross. For your safety and that of the bears, remember to slow down when driving, especially on rural roads at dawn or dusk. Watch for road signs indicating bear crossing areas. Each year in Florida, an average of 250 bears are killed after being hit by vehicles.

Do you have conflicts with bears? Call one of the five FWC regional offices. Go to, and click “Contact Regional Offices” to find the phone number for your area. If you want to report someone who is intentionally harming bears or feeding them, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

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More information is available at, where you can access the brochure “Guide to living in bear country”. Find more ways to be BearWise at Help us help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the Conserve Wildlife tag at

Spring is an active time for many Florida wildlife species. For more information on wildlife in the spring, visit and click on “Spring Wildlife News”.

Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax – All Rights Reserved.

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