FWC turns to trash cans to control bears

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It was the hot topic for FWC this summer: how to control Florida's booming black bear numbers. In 2015, they turned to a statewide hunt, but in June, those opposed to hunting Florida's black bears swayed officials to hold off for a year. 

FWC commissioners narrowly voted to cancel a state black bear hunt, at least for this year. Now they're working on ideas to reduce human-bear interactions peacefully. FWC says that begins with safely securing trash.

"Unsecured trash cans, to bears, are like going to an all-you-can-eat country buffet. It's all easy and spread out for you, good for the taking," said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski.

Wednesday, Waste Pro USA signed an agreement with FWC to make delivery of bear-resistant trash cans quicker and easier for those interested and willing to invest in one. Problem is, bear-proof cans cost more than double what a normal receptacle would. Now, FWC is stepping in with $825,000 of state funding.

"Our aim is to provide these well-developed bear resistant trash cans at an affordable cost," FWC's Thomas Eason said Wednesday.

The target area is northwest Florida. FWC expects local governments to match their allocation of the state funds.

Conservationists say it's a big step in the right direction.

"We know that communities that have converted to bear proof trash cans experience 95-percent success with reducing human-bear interactions," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Lopez says it doesn't stop there. She believes the state must be thoughtful in how it expands into the future to safely coexist with our neighbors in nature.

"We need to be strategic about being urban where it's urban, and keeping wild Florida wild," she said.

Right now, the partnership is just in Northwest Florida. FWC hopes more companies across the state follow Waste Pro's lead.