Florida counties, cities awarded 'Bearwise' funds

Florida counties, cities awarded 'Bearwise' funds
Florida counties, cities awarded 'Bearwise' funds
Posted at 2:20 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 14:20:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida)Eight counties and two cities will divide $500,000 the state has set aside to help reduce bear-human conflicts. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the awarding of the BearWise funds this week, with the largest allocations going to Seminole County, the City of Apopka and Santa Rosa County.  

Each has a BearWise ordinance in place that requires residents and businesses to bear-proof trash containers. 

In Central Florida, Seminole County will receive $177,000 and the Orange County city of Apopka will get $85,000. Both plan to sell bear-resistant trash cans to residents at a discounted price.  

Santa Rosa County in the Panhandle will get more than $50,000 to make dumpsters bear-resistant at restaurants and other businesses in southern parts of the county.  

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. 

“It’s going to mean the bear doesn’t have access to food. It doesn’t mean the bear isn’t going to visit. They may walk through the neighborhood, but that’s not a safety issue," said Telesco. "The safety issue is if a bear is continually getting trash. They start getting used to people and they are okay with people coming close to them and vice versa.” 

The BearWise money, which was approved by the Legislature, was generated in part through the sale of Conserve Wildlife license plates.   

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

Roughly 4,000 black bears live in Florida.