Counties to receive money to help curb bear conflicts

State money was spread across 12 counties on Tuesday to help reduce the potential for conflicts between Florida’s bear and human populations.

Most of the $825,000 in “BearWise” program money will go to lower the cost of bear-resistant trash cans for residents, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a release announcing the grants.

“Today’s funding announcement is innovative conservation work in action and serves as an important step forward for Florida communities that are working to address this serious problem,” commission Chairman Brian Yablonski said in prepared statement. “By continuing to strengthen our partnerships with local governments and neighborhoods, we are helping give Floridians the tools needed to reduce interactions with bears.”

The announcement came six months after the commission voted against holding a bear hunt this year, instead focusing on efforts to reduce interactions between bears and humans.

A 2015 hunt was highly controversial, but supporters have argued that hunting is one way to manage bear populations and to reduce potentially dangerous bear-human interactions. The two-day 2015 hunt, the first in the state in two decades, resulted in 304 bears being killed.

Since then, the state bear population has been estimated at more than 4,000, a considerable increase from the 1970s, when there were 300 to 500 black bears in Florida and the animals were placed on the state’s list of threatened species. Bears were removed from the list in 2012.

Bear-resistant containers cost more than standard trash and recycling bins. A traditional 95-gallon container may sell for about $60, while a more-durable, similarly sized container with a bear-resistant lid is marketed around $200.

Seminole, Lake, Orange and Santa Rosa counties each will get $150,000 for the program.

— Florida News Service

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