FWC releases money for bear-proof trash cans

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More than $800,000 dollars has been awarded to various heavily bear-populated counties this year to help residents afford a more bear-resistant trash can.

The money being allocated from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was raised through licenses issued for a 2015 bear hunt and from proceeds of the "Conserve Wildlife" license plate. Three Central Florida counties --- Seminole, Lake and Orange --- each received $200,000, while nine other counties split the remainder of the funds.

The nine counties include: Collier, Franklin, Gulf, Leon, Marion, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Volusia and Wakulla. Commission biologist Sarah Barrett said there is significant public interest in using bear-resistant trash cans.

"If you look at the calls that we receive from the public, a vast majority of those concern bears getting into garbage. If we can solve the garbage issue, we solve a lot of the human-bear conflicts that folks in Florida are experiencing," Barrett said.

The commission killed 36 nuisance bears last year, and the agency took more than 5,000 bear-related phone calls. Roughly 4,000 black bears are estimated to live in Florida, from the forests of Southwest Florida through the Panhandle.