Bears in Garbage
A Florida Nuisance

Waste Pro continues efforts to keep bears out of trash

For immediate release: December 13, 2010
Contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

When trash is left in unsecured cans, bears are able to find an easy meal. (FWC photo)

A trash can that has been retrofitted to be wildlife-resistant keeps bears and other wildlife away once they realize they don't have access to food. (FWC photo)

Keeping garbage out of the paws of bears has been a little easier for some folks in Franklin and Wakulla counties in the Panhandle, thanks to Waste Pro. In June 2009, the company purchased 200 bear-proof containers to help residents keep trash away from bears and other wildlife. Waste Pro soon found the demand for the cans far outstripped what it had to offer, so it recently ordered an additional 200 bear-proof cans, which are now available to residents.

"Once people with our bear-proof cans started talking with their friends and neighbors, it wasn't long until we handed out our last can and had to start a waiting list," said Candace Clemons of Waste Pro in Eastpoint.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) conducted a survey of the residents who used the first batch of bear-proof cans offered by Waste Pro, as well as businesses that use bear-proof dumpsters. Approximately 60 percent of the respondents had bear conflicts 1 to 7 times a week before using a bear-proof device. After using bear-proof devices, 73 percent of respondents said their bear conflicts dropped to once every 6 to 12 months. More than 95 percent of respondents were satisfied with the bear-proof cans and dumpsters and were likely to recommend them.

"It is clear when people have access to bear-proof cans and dumpsters, it can significantly reduce bear conflicts," said Dave Telesco, the FWC's bear management coordinator. "Bear-proof dumpsters are widely available; unfortunately, bear-proof residential cans are not."

The FWC hopes that Waste Pro's success in offering bear-proof residential cans will encourage other waste-service companies to offer them throughout the state where humans live in close proximity to bears.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 1, the FWC received more than 3,800 calls concerning bears; almost 40 percent of those were to report bears getting into garbage. In Wakulla County, 56 percent of the calls were to report bears in garbage.

"The high percentage of calls involving garbage shows we need to work closely with waste-service providers and local governments, as well as residents to reduce conflicts that result from bears coming into neighborhoods," Telesco said. "The more waste-service providers that offer bear-proof cans, the fewer bear conflicts we will have."

Unsecured garbage attracts rats, feral cats and dogs, and raccoons, all of which can carry disease and become a public safety hazard.

While wildlife-resistant containers are an excellent tool in reducing conflicts, the cans are expensive, and they are often not available for individual purchase. It falls to the waste-service provider to take on those extra costs to offer some relief to their customers. Waste Pro voluntarily ordered the wildlife-resistant cans and began distributing them to interested residents in Franklin County on June 1, 2009. Because of the added costs for these containers, Waste Pro is charging $5 per month in addition to the regular monthly service charge.

"We've made an investment in this community to help them with their bear problems," said Ralph Mills, regional vice president of Waste Pro. "We're pleased we can work with the FWC and our customers to provide the tools they need to deal with the situation."

People can minimize or eliminate bear conflicts by securing attractants such as garbage in wildlife-resistant containers and by removing or cleaning up other attractants in the yard. If followed, these simple changes can be successful in protecting the health of Florida's diverse wildlife and its residents.

The FWC is working with waste-service providers, such as Waste Pro, and local governments across the state to implement cost-effective solutions to this shared problem.

For more information on wildlife-resistant containers and to find out what you can do to avoid bear conflicts, go to Franklin and Wakulla county homeowners interested in the wildlife-resistant containers offered by Waste Pro can call 850-697-8800 or visit their website at

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