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.


Supervisor's Order, National Forests in Florida
ORDER NO. 2009-01

Pursuant to the provsions of 16 U.S.C. Section 551 and Title 36 C.F.R. Sections 261.50 (a) and (b), the following acts are prohibited within the National Forests in Florida. This closure order is effective from June 30, 2009 through June 30, 2014:

Possessing, storing, or leaving any food, refuse, or bear attractant unless it is: properly stored in a bear-resistant container;

suspended at least ten feet clear of the ground at all points, suspended at least four feet from the supporting tree or pole, and suspended at least four feet from any other tree or pole adjacent to the supporting tree or pole;

stored in a closed, motor vehicle without a soft, convertible top; or

being eaten, being prepared for eating, or being transported.

Discarding or abandoning any food, refuse, or bear attractant unless it is:

disposed of in a bear-resistant trash receptacle with has been provided by the Forest Service for that purpose.

Burning or burying any food, refuse, or bear attractant.
36 C.F.R. Section 261.58 (cc).

The following definitions shall apply to this Closure Order:

Bear attractant: means any substance having an odor that may attract bears, such as food, cooking grease, toothpaste, soap, and garbage.

Bear-resistant container: means a securable container constructed of solid non-pliable material capable of withstanding 200 foot-pounds of energy. When secured and under stress, the container will not have any cracks, openings, or hinges that would allow a bear to gain entry by biting or pulling with its claws. Wood containers are not considered bear-resistant unless they are reinforced with metal.

Food: means any nourishing substance, solid or liquid, which is not native to the immediate area, including nourishing substances for humans, pets, and livestock. Food does not mean water and baled hay. Refuse: means any discarded material or solid waste.

Pursuant to 36 C.F.R. 261.50(e), the following persons are exempt from the above prohibitions:

(a) Persons with a special use permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission, issued by the Distrct Ranger.

(b) Any Federal, State, or Local Officer, or a member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty

These prohibitions are in addition to the general prohibitions in 36 C.F.R. Part 261, subpart A.
Executed in Tallahassee, Florida, this 30th day of June 2009

Susan Jeber Matthews
Forest Supervisor
National Forests in Florida

Violations of the above prohibition set forth are punishable by fine of no more than $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, or both. See 16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571. A physical copy of any original signed Supervisor's Order can be obtained from the National Forests in Florida Supervisor's Office. Please contact us at (850) 523-8500 to request a copy.

Bear stealing a garbage canHow 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 inside 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.
  • Depending on your circumstances, you can reduce food odors that attract bears by...

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 to you.

Residential Areas

  • Never store food or garbage outdoors;
  • Do not leave pet food outside, especially overnight;
  • Do not feed birds from April to November, unless the feeders are out of bears’ reach and have spill pans to prevent seeds from reaching the ground;
  • Keep outdoor grills clean; when not in use, store grills inside a garage or building;
  • Bear-proof bee hives, compost piles and gardens with electric or chain-link fence;
  • Pick fruit from trees as it ripens; do not leave fruit on the ground;
  • Do not leave food as bait for any animals or dispose of food scraps outdoors;
  • If a bear approaches, move your family indoors immediately.

Visit and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more safety tips and information concerning bears.