Northwest Florida is getting a little more financial help in the bear-proofing department.
Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties are each getting a portion of $500,000 allotted to 10 Florida counties this year as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s BearWise program, which provides funding to communities to reduce bear-human conflicts.
The funding will go toward bear-resistant equipment purchases and modifications, according to the FWC.
Walton County is set to receive $19,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for parks and to modify dumpsters in the south county to make them bear-resistant.
Okaloosa County will get $18,000 to buy hardware to modify trash cans and to make more trash cans bear-resistant.
And Santa Rosa County, the only county locally with a BearWise ordinance, will receive $58,000 to modify dumpsters to make them bear-resistant at restaurants and other businesses.
To allocate funding, the FWC looks at several factors, including whether the municipality has an ordinance that requires residents and businesses to keep trash away from bears; the likelihood the project will reduce bear-human conflicts; and the number of households that could benefit from the project.
The $500,000 was approved by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida legislature for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Since 2007, a total of $2.1 million in BearWise funding has been provided to local governments, according to the FWC. More than $1.4 million was provided with support from the Florida Legislature and Gov. Scott, and $680,000 from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida with proceeds of the Conserve Wildlife license plate.
“These new funds will allow us to expand our work with local governments to make it easier for people to avoid conflicts with bears," said Kipp Frohlich, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.