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'Bearwise' program aims to help bear problems in some Florida counties

Posted at 3:49 PM, Aug 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-09 15:49:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Tallahassee) - Several Florida counties and cities have applied for state money to reduce bear-human conflicts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Thursday.  

Collier, Lake, Marion, Seminole, Volusia and Walton counties, and the cities of Apopka and Mount Dora have collectively applied for more than $935,000 from the “BearWise” funding program which has $500,000 available in grants.  

With roughly 4,000 black bears estimated to live in Florida, the Legislature designated the money for the current fiscal year.  

FWC Bear Management Program Coordinator David Telesco says the goal of the BearWise program is to help residents secure their trash and eliminate the main reason why bears enter neighborhoods. 

“We are concentrating on 16 counties that have had the most conflicts statewide. There are several counties in the Panhandle, as well as Central Florida and one in South Florida," said Telesco. "We are trying to focus their funding on the most concentrated areas with conflicts.” 

The grants are expected to be awarded in October.  

A preference in the selection process is that communities enact a “BearWise” ordinance, which requires residents and businesses to bear-proof trash containers.   

Over the past two years, funding has been used to buy more than 10,000 bear-resistant trash cans, along with 9,700 sets of hardware to secure regular trash cans.