Bear Safety

Bear stealing donuts at campsiteWhen visiting the National Forests in Florida, it is important to “Be Bear Aware” by taking appropriate safety precautions. We can avoid conflicts with bears by never approaching or feeding them. Human behavior plays a significant role in the behavior of bears.

In order to protect the Florida black bear and other wildlife species, and to promote safe camping in bear country, the Forest Service implemented a Food Storage Order requiring proper storage and disposal procedures for food, garbage and other attractants. As outlined in the order, these items must be stored in approved bear-resistant containers, hard-topped vehicles or in “food hangs” when not in use.

Attractants include anything having an odor that may attract bears, such as food, beverages, cooking grease, toothpaste, toiletries, soap, game meat, pet food, livestock feed and garbage. Ways to store food properly:

  • Store all attractants inside an approved bear-resistant container.
  • Keep your food inside a hard-topped vehicle.
  • Hang all attractants at least 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from any vertical support.
  • Discard all attractants in provided bear-resistant trash receptacles.
  • DO NOT burn or bury any attractants and take out what you bring in.

How to avoid attracting bears

Campgrounds and Picnic Areas

  • Keep a clean site by properly disposing of food scraps and garbage.
  • Do not leave food or garbage inside fire rings, grills or around your site.
  • Never leave food or coolers unattended.
  • Where bear-proof containers are not available, store food and garbage inside a vehicle or camper trailer.
  • Never store food in your tent.
  • Wipe tabletops clean before vacating your site.
  • If a bear is observed nearby, pack up your food and trash immediately.
  • If a bear approaches you, move away slowly and get into a vehicle or secure area.

The Backcountry

  • Hang food, garbage and anything with strong odors (toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from a tree or limb; use special food storage boxes and cable systems if available.
  • Eat and cook food up to 100 yards away from your tent.
  • Avoid camping and hiking alone in backcountry.
  • Make noise to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Never approach a bear or other wild animal.
  • Do not hike in the dark.
  • If a bear approaches you, back away slowly; do not run.
  • Carry EPA registered bear pepper spray.
  • Pack out trash; do not bury it.

Hiking Trails

  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Hike with a group.
  • Carry EPA registered bear pepper spray.
  • Read all signs at the trailhead.
  • Keep children close at hand.
  • Make your presence known by making some noise.
  • Hike during daylight hours and stay on the trail.
  • Watch for bear signs: scat, claw marks, digging, logs or stumps torn apart, etc.
  • Avoid taking pets; they may attract bears.

Visit the Be Bear Aware Campaign and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more safety tips and information.