Saturday, October 25, 2014

Human-bear conflicts in Franklin County are preventable

Before declaring an all-out war against bears that pass through your neighborhood or yard, you should know that most conflicts with bear result from people feeding bears either intentionally or unintentionally, even though feeding is illegal in the State of Florida.

Bears are attracted to neighborhoods that allow access to food sources, such as garbage, pet food and birdseed and will quickly learn to associate homes and businesses with getting an easy meal. 

This behavior becomes more evident in the fall, when bears eat up to 20,000 calories a day to bulk up for the winter. Bears that become too comfortable around people are more likely to be killed by collisions with vehicles, by someone taking an illegal action or by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to address a public safety risk.

Bear-related calls to the FWC increased from about 1K in 2001 to more than 6K in 2013, with most people reporting bears in their yards or getting into garbage.  Anything that will attract a dog, cat or raccoon will also attract a bear and it’s illegal to intentionally place food or garbage out that attracts bears and causes conflicts. 

Bears will not linger in neighborhoods if they don’t find food. Properly storing or securing garbage and other attractants is a proven method of preventing bear conflicts around homes, neighborhoods and businesses. 

In areas of Franklin County that are experiencing conflicts, homeowners or businesses should store their garbage in a bear-resistant container or in a secure area, such as a sturdy shed or garage until the morning of pickup.

If you don’t have access to a bear-resistant container try retrofitting your regular trash can to make it more bear-resistant.  You do this by adding hardware from your local hardware store. For a retrofit to be successful the lid must not be flexible and the can must not collapse when you stand on its side. 

However, before going through the expense of purchasing or retrofitting a trash container, call your waste service provider to ensure they will service the container.

At any rate, if you or your neighborhood is experiencing a human-bear conflict, call the FWC at their Northwest Panama City office at (850) 265-3676 for assistance.