According to a 2016 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission publication, A Guide to Living in Bear Country, Apopka and North Orange County is Bear Country.
Statewide, bear populations are up 60% from 2002 with more than 4,000 estimated bears statewide. In the Central Florida area, black bear populations are up 19% from 2002 and now total more than 1,200 black bears. Florida’s conservation of black bear populations have been a massive success, however this means that people now need to be more cautious with what we do with potential food sources for bears—like garbage.
Bears will eat many different kinds of food sources that originate from humans: pet food, bird seed, livestock, and garbage. Bears are smart and can smell food from a mile away. If they learn of an area with easily available food, they will return to that food source. In the fall bears can eat up to 20,000 calories a day, and bears can gain more calories from a garbage can than they could potentially gain from the foliage they would normally eat. This easy food available to them will keep the bears coming back. This is why it is important to put trash out at appropriate hours, or to use bear-safe trash cans.
As the bear population increases from historically low numbers and the population in Florida increases, the amount of bear interactions increases. The number of bear-related calls that the FWC has received increased from 1,000 in 2001 to near 7,000 in 2014. The increase in the number of bears with the increase in population also increases our responsibility to bear proof our homes—especially or trash or any foods that bears could access.
The majority of human-bear conflicts are a result of unsecured garbage. The FWC passed a statewide resolution in 2015 outlining their commitment to aiding counties pass ordinances to secure garbage from black bears, which includes model ordinances and incentives to communities interested in passing these ordinances. The FWC promotes “Bear Wise” communities. Communities that adopt Bear Wise principles have reduced their human-bear conflicts by 70% with practices like securing their garbage.
Seminole County passed the Seminole County Urban Bear Management Ordinance in late 2015 which set up restrictions on garbage and feeding bears, as well as enforcement and penalties for breaking the ordinances. The ordinances do not allow residences to set their garbage out before 5 a.m. If residences have bear-resistance trash cans then there is no restriction on when they can put their garage outside.
One resolution to reduce bears getting into garbage cans is to make trash collection routes later in the day. Many people opt to put their garbage out overnight because trash pick-up is so early in the morning. If trash was picked-up later in the day, people could put their trash out later and thereby reduce interactions with bears. Advance Disposal is working on changing trash routes and picking-up trash later in areas with the most reported bear activity.
County Commissioner Bryan Nelson commented on the efforts, “I have appreciated working with Advanced Waste and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to reduce the number of bear encounters in District 2.”
Here are a few easy ways to secure attractants from bears:
Put garbage out the morning of pickup rather than at night
Feed pets indoors/ bring petfood inside after feeding
Clean grills and store them in a locked/secure area
Remove wildlife feeders
Remove ripe fruit from trees and fallen fruit from the ground
To learn more about bear populations in Florida use this link.
To learn more about your trash collection and route contact:
Interested in upgrading to a bear-resistant trashcan?
Contact the Orange County Solid Waste Hotline at (407) 836-6601.