LONGWOOD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The Wingfield Reserve in Longwood is the latest subdivision in Central Florida to commit to using bear resistant trash cans. Almost 170 of those cans will arrive around December 22, and then everyone who lives there will be required to use them.
It's not hard to catch bears on camera in your yard if you live near the Wekiva River in Seminole County. State wildlife officials call the area west of Interstate Four the epicenter of human bear conflicts in Florida. Jay Exum lives at Wingfield Reserve in bear territory. "Almost all of the complaints that we have on a regular basis are based upon trash that is not in a bear resistant trash can."
Exum is a wildlife biologist who set up cameras in his yard to record animals coming into his neighborhood. He sees bears come through on a regular basis. He bought a bear-resistant trash can several months ago. The can includes a latch and lock that is down in a hole to open it. The hole and latch are too small for a bear's paw to be able to reach them.
Exum believes when everyone in his neighborhood starts using them later this month, it will dramatically reduce the trash buffet bears feast on during trash pickup days. Exum adds, "I think we will still have encounters, but the hope is the bears won't linger in the neighborhood. They certainly won't sit in your front yard for an hour foraging on your trash."
Randi Cunningham lives in the Wingfield North Subdivision. Its HOA committed to bear resistant trash cans a little more than a year ago. All 120 homes in this neighborhood have them. Cunningham says, "We've had less sightings here and less invasive activities from the bears. We have had less complaints, and hopefully we are keeping people and bears safer."
Cunningham and Exum want Seminole County leaders to require bear resistant trash cans for everyone who lives in bear prone areas, not just for future subdivisions, which is what Seminole County's proposed bear ordinance suggests. Exum adds, "Somewhere in there is a solution that can yield everyone west of I-4 in bear prone areas having bear resistant trash cans."
Critics of the bear resistant trash cans say they cost 180 dollars each and someone has to pay for them. Critics also say home owners will have to pay added trash removal fees to use them.