Keeping garbage out of the paws of bears has just gotten a little easier for some folks in Franklin County in the Panhandle, thanks to Waste Pro, a little grant money and concerned residents. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hopes this initial effort becomes the model for other communities throughout the state where humans live in close proximity to bear habitat and other wildlife.
In 2008, the FWC received more than 2,700 calls concerning bears; 34 percent of those reported bears getting into garbage. In Franklin County, almost half of the calls reported bears in garbage.
“The high percentage of calls involving garbage illustrates an opportunity to work closely with waste-service providers, residents and local governments to reduce conflicts that result from bears coming into neighborhoods,” said Dave Telesco, the FWC’s bear management program coordinator. “Unsecured garbage attracts feral cats and dogs, raccoons, foxes, opossums, bears and other wildlife. Securing garbage in wildlife-resistant containers can go a long way toward preventing wildlife from trashing your yard.”
The FWC works to educate the public about the dangers of leaving garbage and other attractants unsecured and urges residents to keep garbage secured so wildlife does not have the opportunity to feast on leftovers.
While wildlife-resistant containers are an excellent tool in reducing conflicts, the cans are expensive, and they are often not available for individual purchase. It falls to the waste-service provider to take on those extra costs to offer some relief to their customers. Waste Pro voluntarily ordered the wildlife-resistant cans and began distributing them to interested residents in Franklin County on June 1.
Because of the added costs for these containers, Waste Pro is charging $5 per month in addition to the regular monthly service charge. The FWC’s bear management program partnered with Waste Pro to help offset the additional costs to residents. With funds from a grant from the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the FWC gave $6,000 to Waste Pro to allow the first 200 customers who sign up for the wildlife-resistant containers to have the cans serviced without the additional charge for the first six months.
“We’ve made an investment in this community to help them with their bear problems,” said Ralph Mills, regional vice president of Waste Pro. “We’re pleased we can work with the FWC and our customers to provide the tools they need to deal with the situation.”
Habitat loss threatens Florida’s wildlife, and, as a result, it is now common for black bears to appear in residential neighborhoods where food is easy to get. Residents face a two-fold problem: They are responsible for cleaning up the mess made by the wildlife, and they face close encounters with wild animals.
People can minimize or eliminate these problems by securing attractants such as garbage in wildlife-resistant containers and by removing or cleaning up other attractants in the yard. If followed, these simple changes can be successful in protecting the health of Florida’s diverse wildlife and its residents.
The FWC is working with waste-service providers, such as Waste Pro, across the state to implement cost-effective solutions to this shared problem.
For more information on wildlife-resistant containers and to find out what you can do to avoid bear conflicts, go to MyFWC.com/Bear. Franklin County homeowners interested in the wildlife-resistant containers offered by Waste Pro can call 850-670-8800 or visit their Web site at www.wasteprousa.com.
This information originally published on June 10, 2009.
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