Becoming BearWise

bear at dumpster

‘When an entire neighborhood comes together to take responsibility to be BearWise, they are taking the most effective step to reduce community-wide conflicts.”

David Telesco, Bear Management Program Coordinator
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Hurlburt Air Field poster
Poster by Hurlburt Air Field personnel

Examples of Neighborly Coexistence with Black Bears

Numerous communities throughout North America apply BearWise practices. The result? Fewer bear conflicts.

A few examples from Florida:

Hurlburt Air Field in Okaloosa County lessened human-bear conflicts by 70%.

Wingfield North in Seminole County;  St. Teresa and Alligator Point in Franklin County; and Ave Maria in Collier County all saw bear conflicts drop soon after adopting BearWise practices.

Hog Wild BBQ in Carrabelle, secured their restaurant dumpster with modified lids. This action cut the number of bear encounters significantly.

Why Be BearWise?

First and foremost, BearWise communities reduce human-bear conflicts.

BearWise communities are not only safer for people and bears, they also can avoid liability if a person is injured by a bear.

How to Create a

BearWise Community

Step 1: Investigate

Are Bears Getting Into Garbage & Other Food?

Look for garbage, birdfeeders, pet food, and greasy barbecue grills that attract bears craving calories.

Are Local Authorities Getting Calls?

Consult with fish and wildlife biologists, conservation officers or law enforcement officers to assess bear issues in your community.

Step 2: Organize

Talk to Your Neighbors and Organize

Discuss bear issues with your neighbors. When  ready to take action, contact your local fish and wildlife agency, community leaders and trash haulers.

Some states may offer a BearWise certification program that offers benefits for participating communities. Check with your state wildlife agency.

Step 3: Act

Tap into BearWise Resources

Neighborhood groups and communities can use the tools and techniques pioneered by bear-resistant communities. See the many resources below.

Also visit our Educational Materials section

Educational Materials

BearWise Toolkit

Examples of BearWise Ordinances

Many BearWise Communities drafted and passed ordinances (i.e. regulations) that support BearWise behavior. The ordinances address such issues as wildlife-resistant trash storage, pet food storage, necessity for clean barbecue grills and bear-resistant deployment of bird feeders.

Sample BearWise Ordinance (Florida Wildlife Commission)

Orange County, Florida – Bear Ordinance

Missoula, Montana – Garbage Ordinance pertaining to bears

Boulder, Colorado – Bear Ordinance

Gatlinburg, Tennessee – Bear Ordinance

Vail, Colorado – Bear Ordinance

Examples of Bear Signs

BearWise communities don’t have to start from scratch. Here’s a slideshow with a few great ideas to get you started.