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Northeast Florida bear sightings: Locked trash cans may keep bears out of residential neighborhoods

by: Deanna Bettineschi, Action News Jax Updated:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said bears are out looking for food.

“This time of year, bears are trying to get 5,000 calories a day,” said FWC bear biologist Sarah Barrett.

Earlier this month, Action News Jax showed you a bear that was spotted wandering around a Chili's parking lot in Jacksonville and another that was seen wandering around a St Johns County neighborhood.


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“Our trash cans are filled with old birthday cake, pizza crust -- really easy calories. They can go down the street, get those calories,” Barrett said.

Action News Jax went to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and learned about a bear named Betsy. Experts put a bear-resistant trash can inside Betsy’s living area.

Betsy walked to the trash can and tipped it over, trying to get food, but she couldn’t open the can.

FWC says there are also trash cans with locks that make it harder for bears to get into them and steal your trash.

“If we just modify our behavior a little bit, these bears will move on,” said Dan Maloney, deputy director of animal care at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.


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According to FWC, there are more than 4,000 bears in Florida right now, and 500 right here in north Florida.

Experts say we are seeing more bear activity because of the growing bear population coming out of the Osceola National Forest.

If you come into contact with them, there are things you can do to scare them off, like using bear spray.

“You can shout, 'Get out of here, bear!' at the top of your lungs, clapping your hands at the same time, use pots and pans or use your car alarm,” Barrett said.

FWC said it gets 5,000 to 7,000 calls a year about bear sightings in Florida.