Fall has officially begun and that means Florida black bears are going to be more active statewide. Florida residents are being warned to take precautions on keeping these giant teddy bears out of their backyards.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are urging residents to avoid human-bear conflicts with easy preventions. The bears will be looking for easily accessible garbage, thrown out pet food and other edibles left sitting out unsecured.
The warning comes after Fish and Wildlife released the final results of a population survey that revealed an estimated 4,030 bears statewide. That number is up from just a few hundred bears in the 1970’s.
The survey also showed that 1,193 bears in the commission’s central bear management unit encompassed all or portions of 13 counties including Clay, Putnam, St. Johns, Bradford, Alachua, Flagler and Volusia in Northeast Florida. In June, four bear sightings were reported in a three-day span in Jacksonville or Clay County residential areas. One of those bears was a 350-pound bruin that was relocated safely by state wildlife biologists after it took refuge up a tree for several hours at a townhome complex on Jacksonville’s Southside.
During the autumn months the bears appetite increases as they prepare to put on fat for the winter months. According to state wildlife biologists, a bear requires 20,000 calories a day to get ready for winter. The bear will scarf down any food that is convenient for them to get to. Due to that, bears will generally seek into residential areas to seek meals out of garbage cans. A meal found in a garbage can will provide more calories in a shorter period of time.
The agency is working with local communities on ways to avoid dangerous situations. The commission is accepting proposals through Oct. 14 from counties and other local governments so the agency can effectively distribute state money to reduce bear conflicts in Florida. The $825,000 includes $500,000 allocated by the Florida Legislature. Sixty percent of that budget must go to local governments that have passed ordinances to reduce any human-bear conflicts.
Here are some tips to prevent black bears from wondering into your community, per the Florida Times-Union: