Wildlife officials: Scare that bear!

Florida’s wildlife officials are using the movies to help people get along with black bears and also to keep away from backyards.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission released two videos aimed at educating residents about black bears, which have been a source of controversy over the past few years, and providing pointers about what to do if they have a face-to-face encounter with the lumbering creatures.

Some of the tips include a padlock to keep trash cans in a wooden cage off-limits to predators.

Others suggest using devices like the “Critter Gitter” — product placement? — that are activated when they detect a bear.

Of course, there’s always the old standard: Run.

The video doesn’t EXACTLY recommend running, but it does advise people to hightail it indoors or into a car, if possible, once a bear is spotted.

Once you’re safe, that’s the time to “scare the bear,” using whistles, car horns or pots and pans.

The 4- and 5- minute videos from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are part of  ongoing efforts to reduce conflicts between bears and humans.

One video, called “Bear Behavior,” addresses the habitat of bears and describes how to react when encountering a bear in the wild. Tips include speaking in an assertive voice and backing away slowly.

The other video, “Scare the Bear,” gets into when those bear behavior tips are not enough.

“It’s probably the opposite of what you might think,” the video states.

 If you see a bear from a safe distance, first get inside a secured location, make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and only then make some noise to let the bear know  you’re there, the video advises.

“The No. 1 cause of conflict with bears is unsecured trash and other attractants, such as pet food, barbecue grills and birdseed,” said Dave Telesco, who leads the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Bear Management Program. “As bears spend more time in neighborhoods, they begin to lose their natural fear of people, which can lead to dangerous encounters. These videos highlight steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of both bears and humans.”

 The agency, which has held off efforts to hold bear hunts the past couple of years, has $515,000 to match with local government funding to help people and businesses buy bear-resistant trash cans and hardware to secure regular trash cans and to have modified dumpsters. The amount is down from $825,000 last year.

Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.

By Jim Turner.