Communities seek money to prevent bear dangers

- Eight counties and two homeowners' associations have applied for state money aimed at keeping bears away from residential communities.

The requests for the annual “BearWise” money total $998,425, with $515,283 available from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Feeding on garbage is the main reason why Florida black bears appear in neighborhoods,” David Telesco, who leads the commission's bear management program, said in a prepared statement.

The program, which helps offset the costs of bear-resistant trash containers and dumpsters, uses money generated by a 2015 bear hunt and the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates. A key factor in the awarding part of the money is a requirement by the state that applicants have ordinances requiring that trash be secured while awaiting pickup.

The evaluation process also considers incidents of bears in communities, proposed matching funds and whether the money will actually help reduce human-bear conflicts. The available funding is down from $825,000 last year. The state didn't hold bear hunts in 2016 and this year.  An announcement on the money will be made in November.

The counties that have applied are Collier, Franklin, Highlands, Lake, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Walton. Also applying are the Air Force Enlisted Village in Okaloosa County and Holley by the Sea Improvement Association in Santa Rosa County.

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