TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's bear population is thriving and that means you are more likely to have an encounter with a bear, especially this time of year.
Right now, bears have a voracious appetite because they're trying to pack on pounds before winter.
Their sense of smell is so strong they can literally smell food a mile away and your garbage can is an easy target.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding people to make sure their garbage is secure in a garage or shed.
Put your garbage out the morning of pickup, rather than the night before.
Ask your waste provider for a bear-resistant garbage can.
And don't leave pet food or bird seed outside your home, according to Florida's Bear Management Coordinator David Telesco.
"Also, there's hardware you can put on your normal can that can make it a little more bear-resistant and some people use electric fencing. The other option is to actually build a shed for your can that's specifically bear-proof."
Florida's bear population has increased from just a few hundred in the 1970s to an estimated more than 3,000. Telesco said bears are usually shy so if you encounter one and are in a safe spot, try to scare it away.
"If you're in your car or at the door of your house and you see a bear, you actually want to yell or clap your hands and shoo them off. If you're not in a secure spot, you just want to back off quietly and give the bear some space."
Florida has a new website that allows you to report your bear sightings. Telesco said the information will help state biologists update the map of where bears live.
"And they fill out where they saw the bear, how many bears, what time it was, what time of year it was and that will help us because we'll use that with our own data to match it up and see where we might have bears."
The website is at https://public.myfwc.com/fwri/blackbear/