Both Carrabelle and Franklin County have been awarded a share of $825,000 in Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ‘BearWise’ funding announced last week.

The county will receive $2,400 and Carrabelle $1,000 to modify regular trashcans to make them bear-resistant for residents in the southern portion of the county.

This funding aims to reduce the number of bears spending time in neighborhoods by participating in cost sharing with local governments to provide more residents with bear-resistant equipment.

Carrabelle was awarded $1,000 of its requested funding of $2,000, with the city’s in-kind match a group of seven volunteers to install the retrofit kits on residential garbage cans.

Carrabelle Mayor Brenda La Paz said the city applied Oct. 11 for the BearWise funding, which went to 17 of the 19 applicants statewide who had sought a combined total of nearly $2 million.

“Carrabelle does not have an ordinance requiring residents and businesses to keep trash and other attractants secure from bears, so did not qualify for FWC funding of a large project, but I am pleased to report the city did qualify for a $1,000 grant to provide retrofit kits on approximately 50 garbage cans throughout the city,” she said.

She said once funding is distributed and the kits ordered, the city will schedule and advertise a ‘Kit Installation Day’ to be conducted by the seven volunteers.

“We appreciate the FWC working with Waste Pro in our area to assure that no additional fees will be charged for handling the retrofit kits after placement on garbage cans,” said La Paz. “We look forward to a reduction in human-bear conflicts and better management of garbage and litter in our rural community.”

On Tuesday morning, County Coordinator Michael Morón said the county’s $2,400 in BearWise funding will be used to retrofit trashcans primarily in the Eastpoint area, to be done by both county staff and volunteers.

“Additional retrofit kits will be available throughout the county for those who would like to do a ‘Do It Yourself’ installation,” said Morón. “I have been told that these kits are easy to install and do not interfere with trash collection.”

Neighboring Leon, Wakulla and Gulf counties also each received funding. Gulf received $25,422 to modify trashcans in the southern portion of the county, while Leon got $30,000 to modify residential trashcans and reinforced dumpster lids for businesses in the western portion of the county. Wakulla got $19,679 to provide bear-resistant trashcans to residents at a discounted cost.

Unsecured trash is the number one reason that bears enter neighborhoods, and come into conflict with people. The funding proposals were scored by FWC staff, including bear biologists, and were awarded based on several criteria including the likelihood the project would reduce human-bear interactions.

“The recent scientific work to accurately estimate Florida’s adult bear population has confirmed that the recovery of the Florida black bear is a true conservation success story. A large bear population in Florida means that FWC must continue our mission to balance the needs of our bears and Florida residents,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski said, “Today’s funding announcement is innovative conservation work in action and serves as an important step forward for Florida communities that are working to address this serious problem. By continuing to strengthen our partnerships with local governments and neighborhoods, we are helping give Floridians the tools needed to reduce interactions with bears.”

During the 2016 Legislative Session, the Legislature and Gov, Rick Scott provided $500,000 to cost-share with local governments in areas with high levels of human-bear conflicts. The majority of this funding, roughly $375,000, came from permit sales for the 2015 bear hunt, and an additional $125,000 came from the State Game Trust Fund. At least 60 percent of the state appropriated funding is required to go to local governments who implemented ordinances requiring trash be kept secure from bears. Seminole, Lake, Santa Rosa, and Orange counties passed trash ordinances and therefore were eligible to receive additional funding.

FWC also requested funding from the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida using proceeds of the Conserve Wildlife Tag license plate. An additional $325,000 in CWT funds were awarded, resulting in a total of $825,000 available in funding. FWC has also requested additional funding as part of the agency’s legislative budget request for next fiscal year.

Earlier this year, FWC researchers partnered with Dr. Joseph Clark, a nationally recognized black bear scientist, to perform scientifically modeling to estimate Florida’s bear population. This ground breaking study determined that Florida’s black bear population is widespread and robust with over 4,000 adult bears in the state. Even though Florida black bears are not normally aggressive, more bears in Florida means there is a higher likelihood for human-bear interactions which can be dangerous.