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FWC Has $500,000 Available Again for Bear-Resistant Trash Cans

FWC Has $500,000 Available Again for Bear-Resistant Trash Cans
by lowndes

June 7, 2018

By: Stephen Hudak

Orlando Sentinel

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State wildlife officials are again offering local governments money to help homeowners get bear-proof trash cans.

The lock-top containers, designed to keep trash in and bears out, have proven effective in communities like Wingfield North in Seminole County where bears once lingered in hopes of getting a quick meal out from garbage.

Bear experts with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission believe trash is the chief cause of dangerous conflicts between people and bears, who often are driven by their appetites into residential neighborhoods.

The state will have $500,000 available July 1 in funding to help defray the cost of the lock-top cans, which range in price from $200 to $300 depending on size.

Orange County has lock-top cans left over from last year.

To be eligible for a bear-resistant roll cart, an applicant must be a residential curbside customer and provide proof of residence within a designated Bear Management Area, which are generally neighborhoods in unincorporated areas around Apopka, said Jamie Floer, spokeswoman for Orange County’s solid waste division.

“If anyone in Orange County’s Bear Management Area wants a reduced-cost cart, please send them our way,” she said.

The county was awarded $200,124.15 from FWC last year. It distributed 259 bear-resistant containers to eligible customers and has 660 more available.

For more information, the county’s site is: www.ocfl.net/BearCarts or call 407-836-6601.

Wingfield North, a gated Longwood community where the state’s worst mauling occurred in December 2013, is often cited as an example of how BearWise rules and bear-resistant containers can prevent conflicts between people and bears.

It was the first in Florida to require all residents to use the cans, which the homeowners association bought, said Gary Kaleita, a resident who helped draft the neighborhood rules, adopted in June 2014.

Bears still pass through the neighborhood, located in a wildlife corridor in Seminole County, but the animals don’t often linger as they once did, said Kaleita, a lawyer with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed in Orlando.

FWC has focused on helping local governments with BearWise ordinances that require residents and businesses to keep garbage secure from bears to reduce run-ins between people and the wide-ranging omnivore.

“These new funds will allow us to expand our work with local governments to make it easier for people to avoid conflicts with bears,” said Kipp Frohlich, director of the agency’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.

The agency generally awards its grants through an application process. FWC says preference is given to applications from areas which have enacted BearWise ordinances and to requests benefiting a large number of people.

To read Orange County’s BearWise ordinance, click here.

Lake and Seminole counties have adopted similar laws.

Since 2007, FWC has provided almost $1.6 million in funding to residents and businesses in the 16 counties with the highest levels of human-bear conflicts in Florida, including the three in Central Florida. Funds have been used to purchase more than 10,000 bear-resistant trash cans, 9,700 sets of hardware to lock regular trash cans and modify 160 commercial trash receptacles or Dumpsters.

FWC must receive applications before close of business on Aug. 1.

The state funds are provided through revenue generated by the sale proceeds of the “Conserve Wildlife” license plate which features a black bear standing amid palmettos and sawgrass, staples of the animal’s natural diet.

A snowy egret is depicted in flight over the bear’s shoulder.

The “Conserve Wildlife” license plate costs $25 more than a standard plate. But the extra cost is a tax-deductible contribution to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

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