Cities, counties seek money to prevent bear conflicts

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (By The News Service of Florida) - Thirteen counties, three cities and a trio of neighborhood associations are seeking state money to help reduce human-bear interactions.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported Tuesday it is reviewing the total of $1.9 million in proposals, while $825,000 is available this year for bear-proofing measures.

"We're excited to partner with these communities on this important step to keep bears out of garbage," commission Chairman Brian Yablonski said in a prepared statement.

The commission voted against holding a bear hunt this year, instead focusing on non-lethal steps to manage the state's growing bear population. A 2015 hunt was highly controversial, but supporters have argued that hunting is one way to manage bear populations and to reduce potentially dangerous bear-human interactions.

Early this year, the Legislature allocated $500,000 to the state agency for bear-proofing measures from money raised through fees paid by hunters for the 2015 hunt. The other $325,000 was raised through sales of "Conserve Wildlife" license plates. Most of the money requires local governments to match the state funds and to approve ordinances regarding the maintenance of residential and business trash.

The commission expects to announce by mid-December which communities will receive the money.

Applications were due Friday. Among those applying for the state money, Lake, Orange, Santa Rosa and Seminole counties have either passed or are reviewing ordinances. Other counties that have applied are Bay, Collier, Franklin, Gulf, Leon, Marion, Putnam, Volusia and Wakulla. The cities are Daytona Beach, DeBary and Carrabelle.