Encore: Winter is coming so Florida black bears are fattening up in preparation
This episode originally aired on September 22, 2021.
Bears begin eating more calories in the fall to pack on additional fat needed during the winter months. Bears will consume up to 20,000 calories per day and will snack on anything that’s convenient, including what's in your garbage.
There are an estimated 1,000 bears in South Florida living in the conservation areas of Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. Bears are found throughout Florida and sometimes visit neighborhoods. If bears can't find food, they will move on.
State wildlife officials are trying to get the word out about ways to protect both people and bears by securing garbage and other things that could attract bears to yards and neighborhoods. According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), when people intentionally or inadvertently feed bears, it's a lose-lose situation.
As bears become dependent on a food source, they are more likely to frequent residential areas and possibly cause property damage to get these unnatural food sources. Over time, they become “habituated”, gradually losing their fear of humans, and will return frequently to locations with accessible food.
It can take several weeks after preventative methods have been implemented before a bear will understand that the food source is no longer available.
"BearWise" communities commit to learning to coexist with bears, knowing when and how to report bear activity, and securing all potential food sources.
We get some BearWise tips, and learn about bear behavior in Florida, from a biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Bear Management Program.
- Mike Orlando, Bear Management Program with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission