Wildlife officials offer tips to help keep black bears off residential properties

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - This time of year, in parts of central Florida it isn't unusual to see black bears rummaging through trash cans or stuck in trees in the middle of a neighborhood. In the fall bears are looking for food, before they hibernate.

Wildlife experts said that this time of year they get more calls of bear sightings because  the bears are trying to eat 25,000 to 30,000 calories a day to prepare for hibernation and they might go looking for their meals in residential garbage cans.

"We don't want to kill bears for getting into people's garbage," said Mike Orlando of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

But wildlife officials said that sometimes they have put the animals down.

FWC is pushing for people in areas frequented by bears to buy bear-proof trash containers that have special latches that keep the lid from popping open when a bear tips it.

If the $200 price tag for a special trash container is too much, wildlife officials recommend that people keep trash and pet food inside a garage, with the door closed.  

Wildlife experts said they believe bears will stop roaming populated areas if they can't get access to food.

"Bears will go back into the forest and eat their natural foods," said Orlando.

On Friday the city of DeBary signed on to get more bear-proof containers into the hands of residents.

FWC wants to work with other cities and counties to do the same thing.