Seminole County commissioners met with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Tuesday to get input on a county proposal to mandate residents use bear-resistant trash cans.
Dozens of residents showed up to Tuesday’s meeting. Most of them spoke in favor of the proposal. Some spoke out against it.
Lacey Billick says black bears have become fearless. Her family’s dog Buddy was attacked and killed by a black bear Labor Day weekend.
“We let him out to do his business and within a few minutes we heard him scream like we’ve never heard before. It’s gotten to the point now it doesn’t matter what you do. And we’re in fear for our lives and the lives of our children,” said Billick.
Billick says she and her neighbors keep their garbage contained. Some even got bear-proof trashcans on their own.
But when Seminole County offered a $40 discount on the typically $200 cans, only about 300 homeowners bought them. Some neighborhood HOAs have made the cans mandatory, or they force residents to wait until the morning of pickups to put garbage out. But FWC officials say if everyone isn’t forced to use the cans, bears will just go to the next neighborhood where trash is more accessible.
“It’s a great start but obviously bears can wander over a large area and hit cans in a many square mile area,” said Dr. Thomas Eason, an FWC bear expert.
An FWC map that shows separate bear incidents in Seminole County in the last several years, shows most of them were west of I-4. Commissioners are considering requiring all homeowners in that area to use bear-proof cans. If they enact the plan, Seminole County would become the first county or city in the state to mandate bear-resistant cans.
Commissioner Lee Constantine, who proposed the mandatory plan, says the county could pay for the cans using millions of dollars that are available in the county’s waste management trust fund. He says the county might also add a $1 fee to the monthly garbage bills of residents required to use the bear-proof cans to recover the costs.
“The best thing we can do is keep the food away from the bears and bear-proof trash cans are the best first step in doing that,” said Dr. Eason.
Seminole County commissioners agreed to move forward with drafting a public ordinance to set restrictions and rules that county residents must follow in an attempt to reduce conflicts with black bears, but it’s unclear if mandating bear-resistant trash cans will be part of that plan.
Commissioner Constantine says county officials are going to look into the feasibility of the county covering the costs of the cans for the residents that would be required to have them.