BearWise helps people live responsibly with black bears

BearWise is the black bear program you can trust for sound information and smart solutions that help people, neighborhoods and communities prevent problems with bears. BearWise was developed by bear experts from the Southeastern states and is supported by SEAFWA, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

BearWise shares ways to prevent conflicts, provides resources to resolve problems, and encourages community initiatives to keep bears wild. Participating member states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Six BearWise Basics

#1
Never Feed or Approach Bears

Intentionally feeding bears or allowing them to find anything that smells or tastes like food teaches bears to approach homes and people looking for more. Bears will defend themselves if a person gets too close, so don’t risk your safety and theirs!

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#2
Secure food, garbage and recycling

Food and food odors attract bears, so don’t reward them with easily available food, liquids or garbage.

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#3
Remove bird feeders when bears are active

bear raiding a bird feeder

Birdseed and grains have lots of calories, so they’re very attractive to bears. Removing feeders is the best way to avoid creating conflicts with bears.

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#4
Never Leave Pet Food Outdoors

dog food and bears - bearwise

Feed pets indoors when possible. If you must feed pets outside, feed in single portions and remove food and bowls after feeding. Store pet food where bears can’t see or smell it.

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#5
Clean & Store Grills

clean grill bearwise

Clean grills after each use and make sure that all grease, fat and food particles are removed. Store clean grills and smokers in a secure area that keeps bears out.

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#6
Alert Neighbors to Bear Activity

bear safety - bear on the porch

See bears in the area or evidence of bear activity? Tell your neighbors and share info on how to avoid bear conflicts. Bears have adapted to living near people; now it’s up to us to adapt to living near bears.

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The Black Bear Comeback

bears in a meadow - bearwiseBlack bears once roamed over all of America’s forested lands. But after European settlement, their numbers and habitat in the Southeast dwindled. Thanks to new attitudes and enlightened conservation and management efforts, black bears are making a dramatic comeback over much of their historic home range.

 

Now that bears are returning to areas they used to call home, it’s up to people and communities to learn how to peacefully coexist with these amazing animals.

Today the Southeast is home to more than 70,000 black bears

Current Black Bear Territories

Estimated Number of Black Bears in the Southeastern States

Alabama   400 – 600
Arkansas   4,000 – 5,000
Florida   4,050
Georgia   5,100
Kentucky  600
Louisiana   500 – 800
Mississippi   150 – 200
Missouri   300 – 350
North Carolina  17,000 – 20,000
Oklahoma   250
South Carolina   800 – 1,200
Tennessee   5,000
Texas   50 – 500
Virginia   17,000
West Virginia   12,000 – 14,000

As reported at the Eastern Black Bear Workshop, 2017