From Bryan Nelson/Orange County Commissioner, District 2Last year, researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), working with a team from the University of Tennessee, found that the number of black bears roaming around Florida has grown to more than 4,000. That’s a 50 percent increase from a decade ago, and it shows that our environmental-protection and conservation efforts are working.Of course, with more black bears living in places like Wekiwa Springs State Park and the Rock Springs Run Wildlife Management Area, covering a combined area of 21,000 acres, we are also seeing more encounters with people, as bears wander out of the woods and into neighborhoods. FWC gets more than 3,000 bear-related calls a year now, just from residents of central Florida. Among the visitors to my house last year was a mama bear with three cubs in tow!Orange County Commissioner Bryan NelsonBut it’s easy to live in harmony with bears – particularly if we take better care of the number one thing that attracts them to our homes: garbage.That’s why, on Saturday, Sept. 9, Orange County is kicking off a new program aimed at offering approximately 900 bear-resistant garbage carts to eligible homes in northwest Orange County.These lock-top roll carts are tough: In a demonstration earlier this year at the Central Florida Zoo, a pair of black bears spent a good 10 minutes trying to get into one filled with peanut butter and honey. They beat it up, chewed at it and rolled it around – but they never got in.The bear-resistant carts are also expensive; they usually cost $245 each. But through a joint effort between Orange County and FWC, we are able to subsidize the upgrade and offer them to you for just $50! They are available to unincorporated county residents who live within a designated “Bear Management Area” in northwest Orange County. (To find out if you are eligible, go to www.ocfl.net/BearCarts.)If you are eligible, I encourage you to attend our kick-off event, which will be held September 9 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the county’s Apopka Service Center, 1111 Rock Springs Road, Apopka, FL, 32712. Just bring your empty, green-lid garbage cart to swap out for the new bear-resistant cart, plus a credit card or check to pay the discounted $50 fee. Sorry, but we can’t accept cash.Can’t make the event? Just call our Solid Waste Hotline at 407-836-6601 to swap out your cart. Do it as soon as possible because the new carts will only be available until the grant funding runs out. An added perk: If you get a new bear-resistant cart, you can start rolling it out to the curb on the evening before collection day, rather than having to wait to do it until first thing in the morning.If you aren’t eligible for the new carts, or if you’d prefer to keep your existing garbage cart, there are still steps you can take to reduce your chances of having a bear visit your home. Most importantly: Keep your garbage secured – ideally inside a garage – until the morning of garbage day. And never leave garbage or food in vehicles.All of us need to remember to secure other potential sources of bear food, too. Always thoroughly clean your barbecue grills and store them in a locked structure, like a garage or a shed. Feed your pets indoors, and hang any bird feeders at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 4 feet from the nearest tree. And make sure to pick fruit from trees as soon as it becomes ripe and remove any fallen fruit from the ground.You may also want to consider installing motion-detector lights and sprinklers around your house. Remember: Screened enclosures are NOT secure – they will NOT keep a hungry or curious bear out! Mama Mia TAGSbearsGarbage CansOrange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson Previous article5 tips on how to effectively charge your phoneNext articleA juice company dumped orange peels in a deforested area, and here’s what it looks like 16 years later Denise Connell RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter The Anatomy of Fear Reply August 31, 2017 at 11:37 pm Free webinar for job seekers on best interview answers, hosted by Goodwill June 11 1 COMMENT Thumbs up for the bear- resistant garbage cans for the residents of unincorporated Orange County. Now comes the tricky part….if the bears can’t get into the cans in the county, they move on to the city. Please enter your name here Support conservation and fish with NEW Florida specialty license plate Please enter your comment! LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply You have entered an incorrect email address! Please enter your email address here Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.