Be Bearwise: Stash That Trash


Garbage is irresistible to a hungry black bear.

The presence of unsecured household garbage (or other bear attractant) encourages bears to change their normal behavior and movement patterns and “hang out” in residential areas.  Be BearWise and know that one of the first, and most important, things you can do to help is to stash your trash—resolving potential human-bear encounters before they start or escalate.

“Avoiding problems with bears—or being BearWise—is usually simple, though it may not always be convenient,” says Adam Hammond, Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division state bear biologist. “One of the six BearWise Basics is about securing food, garbage, and recycling. When bears have access to human-provided foods, regardless of the source or the intent, they will take advantage of them, and that often leads to further problems.”

Why is it such a big deal? A bear that repeatedly finds food from garbage cans, bird feeders, and pet food bowls is unlikely to leave, and will become bolder in its search for easy food. This can lead to property damage of homes, garages, vehicles, and more. Once bears have learned bad habits and have come to rely on people for a “free meal,” they rarely change those behaviors, and this type of behavior progressively gets worse with time and experience. If you really care about bears, please make the extra effort to ensure that your home and yard are “unattractive” to bears—to protect yourself, your family and pets, and bears.

BearWise is an education program developed by bear biologists from each of the 15 state wildlife agencies that make up the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA). The program, anchored by the website, offers citizen specific, detailed, and high-quality information to help people live responsibly with bears and to keep bears wild. Parents, this website has exciting NEW items geared towards kids, including activity/coloring sheets and a placemat for children. These items are a great tool for keeping kids busy and helping them learn about bears.

The black bear is a symbol of Georgia’s natural diversity, the only bear found in the state and a conservation success story. Though now considered the most common bear in North America, the species was nearly eradicated from Georgia in the 1930s due to unregulated market hunting, illegal harvest—including the killing of bears as “vermin,” and large-scale habitat loss. Sound wildlife management practices have restored Georgia’s black bears to a thriving population estimated at 4,100 bears statewide.

Black bears may legally be hunted in certain parts of Georgia during the fall ( However, the taking of bears during any other time of the year, or the taking of bears illegally during the hunting season, is called poaching. Prevent poaching by reporting illegal activity. Visit for details.

For more information on living responsibly with bears, visit