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Be Bear Aware!

What to Do if You See a Bear in Your Neighborhood

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is issuing its annual reminder that juvenile black bears may appear in unexpected areas as they leave their mothers’ home ranges to establish new territories. Spring also brings increased activity for bears after the limited movements of winter.

“Juvenile or yearling bears – aged between 1½ to 2½ years – start dispersing in spring and summer each year,” explained Mike Orlando, Bear Management Program Coordinator at FWC. “If you encounter a bear in an unexpected area, give it plenty of space and do not approach or feed it. Typically, they will move along on their own.”

During this time, black bear sightings increase in suburban and urban areas, including cities like Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville. Seeing a bear in a neighborhood is not necessarily a cause for alarm. It’s crucial to secure food attractants to prevent bears from lingering. Generally, if a bear doesn’t find food and is given space, it will move on. Feeding bears can cause them to lose their natural fear of humans, which is dangerous. In Florida, it is illegal to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that attracts them.

Black bears are usually not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened. Over half of bear-related injuries to people in Florida involve dogs. When walking dogs, keep them close on a non-retractable leash and be aware of your surroundings to avoid wildlife conflicts. Before letting your dog out at night, turn lights on and off and make noise to give wildlife a chance to leave the area.

As bears become more active, they cross more roadways. For safety and to avoid hitting wildlife, slow down when driving, especially on rural highways at dawn or dusk. Look for bear crossing signs. Each year, an average of 300 bears are killed by vehicles in Florida.

Bear and Cub Photo Courtesy of FWC

If bears are in your area, follow these BearWise® tips to prevent conflicts:

  • Secure food and garbage:
    • Store garbage in a sturdy shed or garage and put it out on the morning of pickup.
    • Use bear-resistant containers or modify existing cans.
    • Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.
    • Protect gardens, beehives, compost, and livestock with electric fencing.
    • Pick ripe fruit and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

  • Remove or secure bird and wildlife feeders:
    • Remove wildlife feeders.
    • If keeping feeders, put out only enough food for wildlife to finish before dark and make them bear-resistant.

  • Never leave pet food outdoors:
    • Feed pets indoors.
    • If feeding outdoors, only leave food out for short periods and bring in leftovers and dishes after each feeding.

  • Clean and store grills:
    • Clean and degrease grills and smokers after each use.
    • If possible, store them in a secure shed or garage.

  • Alert neighbors to bear activity:
    • Inform neighbors if you see a bear.
    • Share tips to avoid conflicts with bears.
    • Encourage homeowner associations or local governments to require secure trash practices.

For assistance with bear conflicts, contact the nearest FWC regional office. Phone numbers are available at under “Contact Regional Offices.”

To report injured, orphaned, or dead bears, bear threats, or illegal feeding or harming of bears, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

For more information, visit and access the “Guide to Living in Bear Country” brochure.

Additional BearWise tips are available at Thirty-nine states, including Florida, support BearWise®, a program promoting responsible living around bears.

Support wildlife conservation by purchasing the Conserve Wildlife license plate at

Bear in Tree Photo Courtesy of FWC
2024-06-19T15:19:49-04:00June 26, 2024|Community, Wildlife|

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