Opinion | Faith & Inspiration

By Charles Towne           


Hardly a week goes by without our hearing of another bear being sighted in a residential neighborhood, and it elicits little more than idle curiosity when we learn that the state has trapped and transported another bear to the Ocala National Forest.

Unfortunately, there is no simple formula that will protect a person in all situations involving bears.

Most people consider the bear as ‘just another animal’. This is a mistake. Bears are highly intelligent as well as individualistic and are capable of nearly as many responses in a given circumstance as a human. Imagining that you know what a bear is going to do is a very dangerous belief.

In this short article, I can’t hope to answer all of the questions concerning bears and our co-existence with them. The most to hope for is that we can perhaps come to a greater appreciation of our wild neighbor.

It might well be said that all conflict between bear and man is food related. Bears are the only large omnivore on planet earth. What this means is they will eat almost anything and everything in their perpetual quest for food.

While a bear’s eyesight is at least as good as that of man, his hearing is far superior; but the sense that a bear uses to survive more than all else is his nose. No other animal on earth has greater acuity of smell.

That incredible sense of smell draws him to your back yard in search of the food you are cooking on your outdoor grill, your pet’s food dish, the seed you have placed in your bird feeder and your garbage can.

The key to successfully sharing bear country with those that were here first is conflict prevention. With minimal human effort, bears and people can coexist. The human effort I am speaking of is the elimination of the potential causes of the conflicts.

You may wonder why it is necessary that you should be put upon to avoid these conflicts, after all, a phone call to the authorities and the bear is trapped, tattooed and transported to a nice new home in the Ocala National Forest where he is going to thrive, right? Wrong, and for several reasons.

Bears are extremely territorial. Transporting a problem bear to another area creates new conflict issues with the resident bears where natural food resources might already be taxed to the limit. This creates the probability of fighting between the resident bears and the relocated bear resulting in subsequent deaths.

Due to an incredible homing instinct, bears return to their original habitat.   Bears have been known to travel hundreds of miles to return to their home range. The only obstacle that can prevent this migration is a natural barrier such as a large body of water or a mountain range, and we have neither in the state of Florida.

Bears are killed in transit. As they travel to their home range, bears are killed when forced to cross and re-cross busy highways.

Starvation. After days or perhaps weeks the subject bear, if it survives the dangers, arrives home in poor condition, perhaps starving. It is desperate for food so it returns to known food sources, your garbage cans.

Euthanization. Another phone call is made. If the authorities determine that the bear is a “problem” bear, it is trapped again. The bear’s number is compared to existing records, and if found, is the bear transported again? No. It is euthanized.

The trapping and transportation of bears is costly in man-hours and revenue. I am sure there are other ways we would like to see our tax dollars at work, but more important than the monetary expenditure is the fact that a bear’s death is a loss to a natural system that relies upon them as part of nature’s balance.

Bears give us something special, an incredible element of wildness that makes living in close proximity to them mysterious and exciting. They are worthy of our respect and our care.

The following tips, though simple, definitely seem to help and could eliminate 90% of your bear issues.

(1) If you feed your pets outside, don’t allow spilled food to accumulate.

(2) If you feed wild birds in your yard, keep in mind that Mr. Bear loves birdseed. Periodically clean up and remove any spilled and scattered birdseed. Make special provision by using hanging bird feeders and suspend them high enough to be beyond a standing bear’s reach. (Eight or ten feet should be sufficient.)

(3) Place your garbage cans at curbside the morning of pickup thus eliminating all of those delicious and tantalizing odors wafting through the air and acting as a magnet for a hungry bear on the prowl. Oh yes, and rinse as well as wash your garbage cans. When the garbage cans are clean spray some lime juice over the inside of the container. (The lime juice seems to work much better than ammonia.)

Please remember, by not providing attractants we just might be assuring long life for Mr. Bear.

An Outdoorsman’s Prayer

Dear Papa God, You have entrusted man to be the caregivers for not only his fellow man but those creatures we callously call “lesser.” Help us to be compassionate to all creatures.  Thank you Papa. In Jesus’ blessed name, Amen

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Today’s article is rather sad concerning why bears behave the way they do. Everything needs to eat. Unfortunately, we do not take into consideration all that wildlife goes through just to survive, especially with man. Let’s make a conscientious effort to not temp them or even inadvertently lure them into neighborhoods for food.
    They are God’s creatures and we need to be more responsible in doing the right thing to help preserve them. Thank you, Chuck, for the reminders and raising our awareness. God bless you.

    • Dear CKS, you speak with great compassion and understanding in regards to those creatures that have been placed in our care. Yes, you are right; these are Gods creatures, and if by some miracle we could hear them cry out to us for mercy would it make a difference? I HOPE SO! Bless you and yours and may He give you peace. Amen. Chaz

  2. Great advice Chuck! Thanks! I have some very disagreeable neighbors and now have a plan to put bird seed and dog food in their backyard at night! Would not have thought of that on my own so one again, Chuck, thanks!

  3. Thank you for looking out for our furry friends! I love bears and, like you, hope that someday we can coexist peacefully. They are such amazing creatures, aren’t they? So graceful and silent at night. I often refer to them as shadow ninjas:)

  4. Richard. when it comes to bears and people I have arrived at the conclusion that of the two bears are the more intelligent. Usually man gives a lot of lip service but if it becomes an inconvenience? Well, bears pay the price! Bless you and yours, Chaz

    • NH, I fear that with most people, not all but most, humans tend to place other creatures far down on the list of importance, especially pertaining to our bear friends. Sadly, most people would rather speak of bears in the past tense, like; “there used to be bears in this area” Sad, so sad! Chaz

  5. Living within a easy stroll of the Wekiva State Park we have had our share of bear visits over the years. For a while we had a mama bear and her two cubs visiting the neighborhood obviously on a training mission. They would be in the trees during the day and roaming at night. One night I captured, on the security cameras, the three roaming through our backyard and obviously smelled cat food in the back garage. Mama realized her head wasn’t going to fit through the door but the cubs were not quite convinced until they actually tried to get their heads through the cat doors. Mama waited by the chain-link fence and finally must have yelled something and over the fence they went. It’s very sad that some bears are euthanized simply because of the ignorance of humans. Thanks for sharing the tips that hopefully will get widespread and we can protect some of our furry friends.

  6. Mike, I believe that I have to agree with John Muir’s conclusion, “If there should be a war between the animals and lord man, i think I should have to side with the bears!” And then there is Henry David Thoreau’s comment: “Every creature is better alive than dead, men moose and pine trees; and he who understands it aright would rather preserve it’s life than destroy it.” Let it be said of us that our lives were lived not to inflict pain or conflict, but peace and mercy. Bless you and yours sir Mike, Chaz

  7. This last summer i was traveling through Iowa when the car ahead of me went way out of its way to run over a snapping turtle that was crossing the road. What is it that causes people to do such an evil thing, an act against nature I can’t imagine! A Friend

  8. Dear Friend, I have a difficult time understanding such behavior. I believe that mercy must start with you and I. Bless you and yours, Chaz

  9. Beautiful and pretentious article Mr. Charles !!! You’ve been right. Animals have more conciousness and normal behavior than us, the Human Beast … We’re still doing the right thing and exceptions for the rest. GOD Bless You Bro !!!

  10. leo, my friend, there are those times that animals seem to have more love and compassion than we humans do. God bless you my brother, Chaz

  11. Leaving my natural stupidity behind, think how you would act if some big company tore down your house so they could build an officer a parking garage! Bears seem to be more civil and adaptive than we would be! Maybe God has placed the animals so we can gauge what kind of human beings we are!

  12. Richard, somehow I believe that bears are a lot more reasonable, a lot more adaptable, a lot more acceptable, than we would be under the same circumstances. We refer to animals as dumb, but are they? Somehow they seem to be so much more human than humans, but without the ignorance. Please teach us o Holy God. Amen

  13. You have always been drawn to bears. Remember long ago, perhaps 62 years ago, when visiting the folks in Wisconsin, you learned about bears visiting a nearby dump. At night people drove to watch them – turning their car lights on as these black haired scavengers. However, sitting in the car wasn’t good enough for you. No, you had to venture out and climb a tree closer to the dump to get a better view. Do you remember this? Or was it just something I dreamed?

  14. Judith my dear sister, your rememberer is working good! I was up in that tree and some joker came over and smeared honey on the rungs of the ladder which enticed a big bear to start climbing the ladder, licking the honey from the ladder as he climbed. That bear decided that something in the dump was more enticing that yours truly. Good memories, yes, good memories! Bless you and yours my sweet Pinky Doodle. Chaz


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