COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Fall is fast approaching in Southwest Florida, which means black bears are going to travel further towards civilization during their search for food.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are urging residents and visitors to take measures to protect people and bears.
Bears need to consume around 20,000 calories per day during this time of year and will eat just about anything that’s within reach. One of the most frequent targets? Your garbage can.
Food scraps found in the garbage are convenient and provide a bear more calories in less time than foraging in the woods, a spokesperson for FWC said. People can reduce their interactions with bears by making sure their trash and other food attractants, like bird feeders and pet food, is secured.
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FWC urges people to be BearWise and follow these tips:
- Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.
- Put household garbage out on the morning of pickup rather than the night before.
- Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
- Protect gardens, bee yards, compost and livestock with electric fencing.
- Encourage your homeowner’s association or local government to institute ordinances to require trash be secured from bears.
- Feed pets indoors or bring the dishes in after feeding.
- Be aware when walking your dog and use a non-retractable leash.
- Clean grills and store them in a secure place.
- Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
- Remove wildlife and bird feeders or make them bear-resistant.
Being BearWise also includes following all wildlife laws. It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract them to your property.
If you see or suspect that someone is feeding or attracting bears, please call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
Because bears will be wandering into more populated areas this season, use extra caution when driving during dusk or dawn and when there is forest on both sides of the road.