News Releases

FWC asks for help in removing tempting bear treats

News Release

Monday, May 24, 2010

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking for assistance in Citrus County.

FWC wildlife biologists report that over the past weekend, there have been more than 50 calls regarding a bear near the River Ranch and the Pine Ridge subdivisions.

Callers have reported that the bear is eating from bird feeders, drinking from birdbaths, eating fruit off trees and walking through yards.

"There haven't been any reports of aggression of any kind," said Rebecca Shelton, FWC wildlife biologist. "In fact, I've got reports stating the bear was chased off by a house cat at one property and by a small dog at another. However, we really want this bear to move on."

It's unlikely the bear will leave unless the food source is removed. The FWC requests the public's help.

"We need folks in that area to remove the temptations for the bear. It's staying on the fringes of residential areas because of the abundance of fruit trees, bird feeders with suet and seed and birdbaths," Shelton said.

Bears are very opportunistic foragers. They are attracted to bird feeders because they are easy to access, and the bird feed is high in protein and calories. They also love fruit and will forage for fallen fruit and what's left on trees. 

"If people would remove these feeders and baths and pick up fruit that's dropped, as well as pick what they can reach off trees, there's a good chance the bear will move on," Shelton said. "The bear weighs between 175 and 200 pounds and is either a young male or an average-sized female.

"We urge residents to secure attractants such as bird feeders and garbage. If attractants are secure, there's no reason for this bear or any others to linger in the neighborhood," Shelton said.
People often ask why these bears can't simply be relocated to the woods, where they won't bother anyone.

"Unfortunately, these remote areas are rare in Florida," Shelton said. "In addition, bears often wander away from the relocation site and create problems in a new area."

Since the 1980s, the bear population has been steadily expanding - along with the human population. As a result, bears and humans are encountering each other more than ever. Calls to the FWC concerning black bear encounters have increased from 86 in 1989 to more than 3,200 in 2009. Often these calls involve bears that have been fed by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally.

The mere presence of a black bear does not necessarily represent a problem. In fact, living in bear country can provide some unique and rewarding experiences for residents. However, when black bears have access to pet food, garbage, birdseed, livestock feed, etc., they learn very quickly to associate people with food.

"Once they do, they lose their natural fear of people and may become a nuisance. This can lead to personal injury, property damage and the need to destroy the problem bears," Shelton said.

Properly storing or securing residential garbage and other bear attractants is a proven method for discouraging bears and preventing nuisance problems around homes, farms and neighborhoods.

The following items attract bears and should always be protected by an electric fence or stored in a secure place, such as a garage or sturdy shed:

  • garbage cans,
  • bird feeders,
  • pet food,
  • squirrel and other wildlife feeders,
  • pet food bowls,
  • barbecue grills and smokers,
  • pets and small livestock such as goats, rabbits, pigs and chickens,
  • livestock feed,
  • compost piles,
  • beehives, and
  • fruit- and nut-bearing plants and trees.

"Anything that attracts dogs, cats, raccoons and other animals can also attract bears. People also need to know it's illegal to intentionally feed black bears in Florida," Shelton said.

For more information about Florida black bears, please visit MyFWC.com/Bear. There is a homeowner's guide for living in bear country and other facts about human/bear conflicts.

Bear facts

  • Black bears are the only type of bear native to Florida and once roamed throughout the state's entire 34.5 million acres. Human activities in Florida have eliminated bears from about 83 percent of their former range.
  • Florida bears are black with a brown muzzle and may have a white chest marking called a blaze. Adult black bears typically weigh 150 to 400 pounds. The largest male bear on record in Florida weighed 624 pounds; the largest female weighed 342 pounds.
  • Female bears, called sows, begin breeding at about 3.5 years old and generally have one to four cubs every other year. In Florida, the breeding season runs from June to August, and cubs are born about seven months later in late January to early February.
  • Bears of all ages are excellent climbers and climb trees when they are frightened. About 80 percent of a black bear's diet is plant matter (plants, berries, nuts, etc.). The other 20 percent includes insects and meat.



FWC Facts:
Adult white-tailed deer in Florida average 125 lbs. for bucks, 95 lbs. for does. The Key deer subspecies is noticeably smaller, averaging just 27 in. tall and 55-70 lbs.

Learn More at AskFWC