The Florida Black Bear

Courtesy of the Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles Newsletter, February 2024

As we continue to develop land in Walton County, there are increased sightings of the Florida black bear. The Florida black bear is black furred and is a subspecies of the American black bear. Although these mammals are usually shy and quiet, they have been known to injure people when they are protecting themselves, their cubs, or their food source. These bears are typically larger than other black bears. Males can be 240 to 450 pounds and the smaller female can weigh 125 to 250 pounds. The bears can appear to be playful and are even seen having an outing on the South Walton beaches.

The Florida black bear is protected by the Bear Conservation Rule (BCR), although a special permit issued by the BCR may allow people to “take, possess, injure, shoot, collect or sell black bears or their parts.” The BCR prevents people from shooting a bear that is on personal property. However, people are permitted to carry a can of pepper spray to protect themselves from the bears as long as the can is at most 2 ounces. In lieu of harming the bear, people can toss big beach balls at the bear or make loud noises by banging pots and pans or setting off a car alarm when a bear is sighted.

The Florida black bear primarily eats roots, berries, meat, fish, insects, larvae, grass, and other succulent plants. However, we all know they like to rummage through trash cans left out over-night. The bears have the ability to kill young deer and other hoofed wildlife.

Humans can be proactive in deterring a bear from roaming their property. For instance, the smell of strategically placed cups of ammonia, pine-based cleaners, or vinegar around the outside of a home can repel the bears before they can cause any damage. Please keep in mind that ammonia and bleach should not be combined because this mixture can cause fumes that can be harmful to both humans and bears.

While it is common sense to safely store all trash or food, a rag soaked in bleach, ammonia, pine-based cleaners, or cider vinegar and placed in your trash can could also deter a bear from rummaging through the can looking for food. However, be aware that bears like the lemon-scented or fruity types of these products. Dryer sheets have also been known to have an odor that bears dislike.

As we live and our housing areas grow in Walton County, one thing we must do is respect the original inhabitants. Let’s keep in mind that we have moved into their home!

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