Black Bear in Gainesville, Florida, area

FWC to Gainesville residents: Be ‘bear aware’

When trash is left in unsecured cans, bears are able to find an easy meal. (FWC photo)

A trash can that has been retrofitted to be wildlife-resistant keeps bears and other wildlife away once they realize they don't have access to food. (FWC photo)

News Release, June 1, 2011

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received several calls about a black bear in the Gainesville area.

FWC biologist Allan Hallman responded three times to this bear over the recent holiday weekend.

"At this point, we're not planning to trap this bear," Hallman said. "We want to use aversive conditioning such as firecrackers and paintball pellets to let the bear know that being around people isn't a pleasant experience."

Another issue with trapping this bear is that it isn't returning to one particular place, so putting out a culvert trap would be ineffective.

The most important thing to remember is this: Do not feed the bear.

"Problems arise when bears have access to unnatural food sources such as pet foods, garbage, barbecue grills, birdseed or livestock feed," Hallman said. "Bears learn very quickly to associate people with food, and this puts the bear at increased risk because of traffic, poaching or management action."

Black bears normally are too shy to risk contact with humans, but their strong food drive can overwhelm these instincts. Residents can help this bear move on, so it does not become a problem.

"We're hoping that if people remove the attractants, the bear will return to Paynes Prairie," Hallman said.

Properly storing or securing garbage is a proven method of discouraging bears. Bird feeders and barbecue grills should be stored in a secure place, such as a garage or a sturdy shed. Place garbage cans outside on the morning of pickup, rather than the night before. People can encourage their neighbors, community or local government to use bear-resistant trash containers or dumpsters.

"Another way people can help is to feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding," Hallman said.

Relocating the black bear is not a good option, Hallman explained.

"Relocation is stressful to bears and often places them in another bear's territory. Often, a relocated bear may try to return to its original home and, in the process, cross busy roads, creating a danger for itself and motorists," Hallman said.

"Another reason not to relocate bears is that it requires chemically immobilizing the animal," Hallman said. "This subjects the bear to additional stress with no guarantees of how it will react around people before it goes to sleep or how it will handle the drug."

"If you see a black bear, remain calm. Don't run away. Walk calmly toward a building or vehicle and get inside," Hallman said. "If you have children or pets, bring them inside. Encourage the bear to leave. Bang pots and pans, or blow an air horn or whistle. The more stressful a bear's encounter with you, the less likely it is to come back."

If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Remove people and dogs from the area. The bear usually will come down and leave when it feels safe.

If the bear is threatening the safety of humans, pets or livestock or is causing property damage, report it to the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Residents can find out more about living with black bears at

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