Lately, the Florida Black Bear has been rather frequent in the news and it is time to get some facts straight about the animal. For over twenty years the black bear hunt has been made illegal to allow for the endangered animal to rejuvenate. In the past few years, however, more and more complaints have been coming in about black bear nuisances in residential neighborhoods. In 2005, the number of complaints was just under 2,000, and just last year that number rose to over 6,000 according to the Tampa Bay Times. This increase is due in large part because the population growth of humans, causing the growth of more developments which, in turn, takes away from the bears’ habitat.
The Black bear is a smart bear, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife; so smart in fact, they are lazy by choice. Black bears eat over 5,000 calories of food a day, which means most of their day is spent hunting and foraging in the woods. A black bear can smell food over a mile away, and because they quickly learned to associate people with food, they have become more attracted to the garbage we throw out. This makes the bear lazy because while they could choose to forage the woods for fruits and berries all day, they would rather intake their 5,000-calorie meals in one sitting. Garbage has become the biggest bear attractant in the state of Florida and it is the main reason bear encounters with humans have become more “aggressive.” In the past ten years there has only been 4 attacks on humans in Florida, and in each of those attacks someone had left trashcans out unsecured which attracted the bears’ attention.
Bears are predominately non-aggressive, and in most encounters with humans the bears was either defending themselves, their cubs, or their food source. The Florida Fish and Wildlife have a few suggestions for people if they want to be “bear smart” and the list includes: building a shed around your garbage cans, putting up an electric fence around livestock or beeyards, and never feeding the wild bear. The most helpful thing you can do is put your trashcans out the morning of pickup instead of the night before. If you do come in contact with a bear, it is best not to run because that will trigger the bears’ instinct to chase, instead, you should make sure the bear has a clear exit, and then scare it by yelling in an assertive voice, honking your horn, or banging pots and pans according to the FF&W. It is also a common myth to play dead, because after all, bears eat dead animals.
While it may have been the law in Florida that it is illegal to shoot a black bear, unless to protect human life, the new controversy regarding hunting has some people in a frenzy. The bear hunt is said to control the bear population; yet, there is no proof that it will do just that. The hunt is scheduled for a week in October where anywhere from 100 to 5,000 people may show up to participate. A Tampa Bay Times contributor says there is no way to control the bear population with this hunt unless it is opened up to subdivisions “where the bear problem is.” There is also no way of knowing how many bears will be killed, and if that will affect the number of bears running from the woods and into more subdivisions.