Wildlife officials are reminding Floridians and new arrivals that, in the fall, Florida black bear activity increases as bears begin a natural process of putting on fat for the winter.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds people to be 'BearWise' to help prevent conflicts with Florida’s largest land mammal.
To be prepared for winter, bears require around 20,000 calories a day and officials say that means they will eat anything that’s convenient.
For example, getting food from a garbage can often provide bears with more calories in a shorter amount of time than foraging in the woods.
This easy source of calories draws more bears into areas where people live and work, which officials say can be potentially dangerous for both people and bears.
Wildlife officials say keeping garbage secure not only helps keep people safe but also helps bears.
Authorities say some BearWise safety tips include securing household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container; securing commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters; feeding pets indoors or bringing in dishes after feeding; and removing wildlife feeders or making them bear-resistant.
It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.
People are advised that, if they see or suspect that someone is feeding or attracting bears, they should call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
People can also help themselves and bears stay safe by remembering to watch for bears while driving.
This time of year, officials say bears are traveling across more roads in search of food, which results in more bear-vehicle collisions.
The FWC advises drivers to be aware of their surroundings as they drive in bear country, especially around dusk and dawn, and when there is forest on both sides of the road.