How to keep you and your pets safe from Florida's black bears

Katie Kustura
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates there are 4,000 black bears living in the state.

With development in Florida booming and bear habitats fragmenting as a result, the chances of seeing a bear in the wild have risen, experts say.

Uninvited guests:Bear's visits to DeLand neighborhood prompts Volusia woman to seek ways to safely coexist

But when that includes residential areas, it's important, and required by law, to secure garbage and other attractants, which bears can smell from more than a mile away, according to the FWC. Bear attacks, while rare, are possible and usually driven by a bear defending itself, its cubs and/or food sources.

Tips from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on how to live with bears in the area.

Here are ways to manage living among the black bear as recommended by the FWC:

What to do if you encounter a bear

Remain standing upright and back away slowly to a secure area, leaving the bear with a clear escape route. Avoid eye contact and speak in a calm but assertive voice. If retreating seems to irritate the bear, stop and stand still.

Bears that feel threatened may clack their teeth, huff, stomp or make other sounds. They may also bluff charge, which experts say is a sign they want space and not an indication of aggression or intent to attack.

If a black bear does attack, fight back aggressively.

What not to do if you encounter a bear

Do not run, which can trigger a bear's chase instinct, make any sudden movements, play dead or climb a tree. Do not approach or surprise a bear, especially one that appears injured or ill.

How to reduce bear visits

  • Add hardware to trashcans to make them more bear-resistant or use bear-proof cans, which are available through some waste service providers. Put garbage out the morning of pickup instead of the night before.
  • Store pet food indoors and bring in dishes inside after feeding (Screened enclosures won't stop bears).
  • Clean and store grills in a secure, locked place after use.
  • Use electric fencing to protect livestock, apiaries, gardens and/or compost.
  • Install motion detector lights.

FWC:How to keep bears from going through garbage

How to keep pets safe from bears

  • Walk pets using non-retractable leashes, and carry noisemakers or bear spray. If possible, avoid walking them during nighttime hours or at dusk or dawn when bears are most active.
  • Before letting pets outside, make noise and flash lights to scare bears or other wildlife.
  • Use electric fencing around outdoor pens, which should be as far as possible from tree/shrub lines or other covers. Outdoor pens also should have a roof and/or be high enough to keep out wildlife. A skirt that extends outward and underground to prevent digging also is recommended.

For more information on living with bears, visit myfwc.com.