Being BearWise as a Community

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

Steps to Creating a

BearWise Neighborhood

Step 1: Investigate

Are Bears Getting Into Garbage & Other Food? Look for garbage, birdfeeders, pet food, greasy barbecue grills and other things 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 recognition program that offers benefits for participating communities. Check with your BearWise 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. Visit our BearWise Store for free fact sheets you may download and other educational materials. Also see resources listed below.

Being a BearWise Home is good for you; creating a BearWise Neighborhood is good for everyone.

Examples of Neighborly Coexistence with Black Bears

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

Florida: Hurlburt Air Field in Okaloosa County lessened human-bear conflicts by 70%. They are now a recognized BearWise Community. Learn more about Florida communities that have received BearWise Recognition.

North Carolina: Black Mountain Neighborhood is a group of about 35 homes in the downtown area. This community is unique because it is without a unifying structure (e.g., homeowners association, road maintenance association, government structures); residents decided to become BearWise after they experienced bears getting into garbage and displaying habituated behaviors in the downtown area. Residents have agreed to secure garbage on non-collection days in their garages and only place garbage carts at the curb on the morning of collection.

Hurlburt Air Field poster
Poster by Hurlburt Air Field personnel

Ordinances / Regulations

Examples of BearWise Ordinances

Many towns, HOAs and communities have drafted and passed ordinances / regulations that support BearWise behavior. The ordinances can address such issues as wildlife-resistant trash storage, pet food storage, securing attractants, and feeding wildlife, including birds.

Sample BearWise Ordinance

Orange County, Florida – Bear Ordinance

Missoula, Montana – Garbage Ordinance pertaining to bears

Boulder, Colorado – Bear Ordinance

Gatlinburg, Tennessee – Bear Ordinance

Vail, Colorado – Bear Ordinance

Why be BearWise? First and foremost, BearWise communities reduce human-bear conflicts. BearWise communities are not only safer for people and bears, they also may avoid liability if a person is injured by a bear.

Bear at Great Smoky National Park (Photo: Warren Bielenberg)
(Photo: Warren Bielenberg)

More Resources

Earning BearWise Recognition

BearWise Recognition Emblems

Many studies prove what we all know to be true: working together towards a common goal produces better results and is much more satisfying than going it alone.

Some states, including Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, currently offer programs that recognize many kinds of groups (Community, Business, Campus, Recreation Area) that are taking the right steps to follow the BearWise Basics, reduce and prevent conflicts and encourage people to live responsibly with black bears. These recognition programs are developed and administered at the state level. Check with your BearWise state wildlife agency for more information about available programs.

Black Mountain neighborhood in North Carolina (photo: Fred McCormick)