2017-06-15 / Top News

It’s that time: Watch out for black bears, cubs on the move

SPECIAL TO FLORIDA WEEKLY

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reminds the public to be aware that black bears, the state’s largest land mammal, become more active this time of year.

Female bears that gave birth to cubs that were only 12 ounces at the end of January are beginning to move around more with their young, which may now be 5 to 10 pounds. As the cubs continue to grow, the family unit will roam and can be more visible to people.

“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” said Dave Telesco, director of FWC’s bear management program. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”

Bears are also in search of potential mates.

While black bears generally are not aggressive, they have injured people in Florida. Never approach any bear. When walking dogs in bear country, keep them close to you and be aware of your surroundings. Dogs can trigger defensive behaviors from bears, especially females with cubs.


The FWC surveyed nearly 11 million acres in Florida to come up with its estimates of the state’s black bear population and location. Barbed-wire enclosures containing a small food reward were used to collect hair samples left behind when the bear squeezed between the wires for the food. Because state-of-the art genetic analysis of these hair samples enables researchers to identify individual bears, they can determine if the hair sample is from a bear that has already visited an enclosure or a new bear not previously identified. Population modeling work based on these genetic results, which is conducted by the University of Tennessee, provides FWC with an accurate estimate of bear numbers. The FWC surveyed nearly 11 million acres in Florida to come up with its estimates of the state’s black bear population and location. Barbed-wire enclosures containing a small food reward were used to collect hair samples left behind when the bear squeezed between the wires for the food. Because state-of-the art genetic analysis of these hair samples enables researchers to identify individual bears, they can determine if the hair sample is from a bear that has already visited an enclosure or a new bear not previously identified. Population modeling work based on these genetic results, which is conducted by the University of Tennessee, provides FWC with an accurate estimate of bear numbers. To keep bears away from your home and neighborhood, follow these tips:

¦ Secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or a wildlife-resistant container.

¦ Put household garbage out on morning of pickup rather than the night before.

¦ Secure commercial garbage in bear-resistant dumpsters.

¦ Protect gardens, beehives, compost and livestock with electric fencing.

¦ Encourage your homeowners association or local government to institute bylaws or ordinances to require trash be kept secure from bears.

¦ Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding.

¦ Clean grills and store them in a secure place.

¦ Remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.

¦ Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.

It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts.

Remember to slow down when driving, particularly on rural highways at dawn or dusk. Watch for road signs identifying bear crossing areas. Each year in Florida, an average of 240 Florida bears are killed after being hit by vehicles.

Having conflicts with bears? Call one of the FWC’s five regional offices. Go to www.myfwc.com/contact and click on “Contact Regional Offices” to find the phone number for your region.

If you feel threatened by a bear or want to report someone who is either harming bears or intentionally feeding them, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

More information is available at www.myfwc.com/bear. ¦

Black bear basics

>> FWC biologists estimate that there are
approximately 4,050 black bears in Florida.
They are the only species of bear found in
the state.
>> Adult male black bears usually weigh 250
to 350 pounds. The largest adult male black
bear in Florida weighed 760 pounds.
>> Adult female black bears usually weigh
between 130 and 180 pounds. The largest
adult female black bear in Florida weighed
400 pounds.
>> Adult male black bears usually live within
a 60-square-mile area, whereas females
usually live within a 15-square-mile area.
>> Female bears have their first litter at about
3½ years old and generally have a litter
every other year.
>> In Florida, the breeding season runs from
June to August and cubs are born around
late January or early February.
>> Bears are excellent climbers and often
climb trees when they are frightened.
>> About 80 percent of a black bear’s diet
comes from plants (e.g., fruits, nuts,
berries), 15 percent from insects (e.g.,
termites, ants, yellow jackets) and 5 percent
from meat (e.g., opossums, armadillos,
carrion).

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