Grants Available to Reduce Bear Attacks in Florida

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WWSB) – Local governments have until August 1st to apply for grants intended to reduce bear-human conflicts. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is making 500 thousand dollars in grants available for communities, with a preference going to those that have enacted “BearWise” ordinances requiring residents and businesses to bear-proof trash containers. The money, in part, is generated through the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates. In 2015, FWC held the state’s first bear hunt in more than two decades, with 304 bears killed. The commission has declined to hold another hunt, with the state instead providing the grants to try to prevent potentially dangerous encounters between humans and bears.

FWC Bear Management Program Coordinator David Telesco says the goal is getting entire neighborhoods on board. “It allows whole communities to participate. When it’s a community-wide effort, when almost everybody is doing the right thing by keeping their trash secure, the bears don’t have a reason to even enter the neighborhood,” said Telesco.

FWC says the “BearWise” program has been used to buy more than 10 thousand bear-resistant trash cans, 97 hundred sets of hardware to secure regular trash cans, and 160 dumpsters have been modified to keep bears out. Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.

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Lee Fry