Be extra aware of bears in the fall

Be extra aware of bears in the fall

Be extra aware of bears in the fall

Lois Swoboda
Published: Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 02:00 PM.

Fall is the most active time of year for Florida black bears as they stock up on calories for the coming winter. Though black bears don’t really need to put on pounds to survive the state’s usually mild winters, they behave as if they do – eating about three times as much as usual.

Generally, American black bears forage most actively from dusk until dawn though they may feed at any time. Up to 85 percent of the black bear's diet consists of plants. During summer, the diet is comprised largely by fruits, especially berries and flower buds. During the autumn, feeding becomes pretty much the full-time task of black bears. Hazelnuts, acorns and pine nuts may be consumed by the hundreds each day during fall. During the fall period, American black bears may also habitually raid the nut caches of squirrels. 

The majority of the black bear's animal diet consists of insects such as bees, yellow jackets, ants and their larvae. Once the hive is breached, black bears will scrape the honeycombs together with their paws and eat them, regardless of stings from the bees. Black bears will gnaw through trees if hives are too deeply set into the trunks for them to reach them with their paws.

Black bears living in areas near human settlements or around a considerable influx of recreational human activity often come to rely on foods inadvertently provided by humans. These include refuse, birdseed, agricultural products and honey from apiaries

Because bears are now busy filling their bellies, residents in Franklin County may have even more bear sightings than usual. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) asks people to be extra diligent in securing food sources around their homes and businesses that can attract bears and create problems.

“Preventing bears’ access to food is the most important thing people can do to keep bears and other wild animals out of neighborhoods,” said Capt. Rob Beaton, area supervisor for the FWC. “If you are a Florida black bear, raiding a garbage can to eat leftovers may be more appealing than foraging in the woods for palmetto berries and acorns.”

It is against the law to have food and attractants out for bears to access. And as bears are looking for food, the easier a food item is to get, the more likely it is that a bear will take advantage of it.

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