State wildlife experts say bear encounters could be dramatically reduced if people stop leaving food out where bears can get at it. The solution could be bear resistant trash cans, but there's a debate over who should pay for them.
A Seminole County lawmaker wants to make bear resistant trash cans mandatory in the heart of bear territory.
A recent demo showed how bear resistant trash cans can deny a big bear a feast on trash. Despite their strong paws and claws, black bears have trouble getting into them. State Rep. Mike Clelland wants to make bear proof trash cans mandatory in areas with the most bear encounters. He's concerned that two women have been mauled in four months.
Clelland says, "My fear is that if a child or an elderly person gets into the grasp of a bear, they won't be physically able to get away."
Clelland wants the FWC to launch a campaign to teach home owners not to feed bears or to leave trash out. He also wants state lawmakers to consider if they should raise the fine for purposely feeding a bear.
He says, "If the fines are such that they don't make a difference, then maybe stiffer fines would deter them."
The Seminole County State Representative says he will push in the last two weeks of this legislative session to get money in the state budget to pay for the educational campaign and to buy bear proof trash cans in parts of the Wekiva River Basin. Under his plan, the state would purchase thousands of cans for 160 to 180 dollars each.
Critics say most of the close encounters with bears are happening in upscale neighborhoods near the Wekiva River. Critics believe families living there have enough cash to buy the cans themselves.
Representative Clelland responded to that. "I'm not going to discriminate on who might be able to afford it and who might not. This is a state issue because it involves public safety."
The Lake Mary state representative adds the FWC would tell lawmakers which neighborhoods should be required to use bear proof trash cans.
He adds, "Whether someone has the money to purchase a can on their own doesn't matter to me. It's the fact that we need to get them into the area and we need to get state funds to get it done."
Representative Clelland tells Fox 35 News this Monday he will meet with house leaders to lobby for the money to buy bear proof trash cans and to pay for the FWC educational effort.