Seminole County could begin issuing fines under proposed bear ordinance

Seminole County could become the first local government in Florida to fine people who leave out food or trash where bears can get at it to eat it.  The proposed ordinance says offenders could face civil fines of one hundred dollars whether they leave food out on purpose or unintentionally.

Western Seminole County is the area state officials call the epicenter of human bear conflict in Florida.   Three bear attacks there in the last two years have state wildlife managers looking for solutions.

Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine says the proposed Urban Bear Management Ordinance has some good points.  It would focus on neighborhoods west of Interstate Four.

It would require bear resistant trash cans for future subdivisions and commercial buildings there.  It would provide for one hundred dollar civil fines for people who leave trash where bears can get it.  It would also empower some county employees to issue warnings and citations. 

Constantine does not want a heavy handed policy.  He said, "We are not going to have bear can police going down people's roads. I mean this is going to be more of a voluntary requirement."

Constantine wants to require all residents west of Interstate Four to use bear resistant trash cans.

Gary Kaleita is an attorney with the Lowndes Firm in Orlando.  He's also a resident of Wingfield North.  It's the first HOA in our area to mandate bear resistant trash cans for everyone there.  Kaleita wrote the rules for the HOA's bear policy.  He says Seminole's proposed ordinance is good, but he thinks it should require bear resistant trash cans on trash pickup days.

Kaleita says, "I'm sure a lot of homeowners will choose to put their trash out on the day of collection in a regular trash can or even in a plastic bag, and so trash being the single biggest attractant, I think you're still going to have bear issues in Seminole County."

Seminole County Commissioners will discuss the bear ordinance at their December 8th meeting.  
Commissioner Constantine says he will meet with Fish and Wildlife officials before then to get more of their input.