BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — As the air starts to cool around the Panhandle, bear activity is in full swing.

“Oh yea no, activity actually picked up in August, but normally it picks up in September,” says David Telesco of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Telesco is the Bear Management Program Coordinator and wants to push residents to be “Bearwise”, from now through the end of the year.

Bears can be active for up to 18 hours in a day, foraging for food for the winter, and eating as much as 20,000 calories.

“Something they might have been willing to pass up, now all bets are off, they are willing to go places they wouldn’t normally go, because they are really trying to get those calories,” says Telesco.

He advised keeping trash secured and inside a shed or garage until the morning of pick-up as the best way to keep bears from infiltrating the neighborhood.

Telesco said garbage isn’t the only problem, they have also seen an uptick in other bear interactions.

He explains, “What we are seeing over and over again, are dogs and females with cubs, we are seeing a lot of interaction, more than we wanna see, and basically what happens is, someone’s dog messes with a female with cubs and the person tries to help the dog, and gets hurt.”

Telesco said it’s best to distract the animals if this happens, “Squirting a hose at those guys, or yelling to call your dog back that’s a better way than actually trying to physically separate them.”

When letting the dog out at night, pet owners should flash the porch lights on and off, so if a bear is in the yard it won’t be surprised, and go into defense mode.

More bear info from the FWC can be found here.