Florida’s BearWise

BearWise Cost Share Funding


Since 2007, the FWC has provided approximately $1.6 million in BearWise funding to 16 counties using Conserve Wildlife specialty license plate External Website funds managed by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida External Website and funds from the Florida Legislature.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature appropriated $500,000 for BearWise funding for FY 18-19

Applications Adobe PDF are being accepted from local governments until close of business on August 1, 2018. Once received applications will be reviewed by a team of FWC staff based on the criteria below. Funding allocations will be announced no later than mid October 2018.  

Criteria Used for Selection

Funding to reduce human-bear conflicts will be provided to local governments in a prudent manner following state contracting requirements as appropriate. Applications will be evaluated based on several factors, including:

  • Does the municipality have an ordinance in place that requires residents and businesses to keep trash and other attractants secure from bears?
  • How many households within the municipality are in an area with high human-bear conflicts?
  • How much support (match) above the minimum of 10% will the local government provide for the project?
  • What is the likelihood the project will result in a community-wide reduction of human-bear conflicts?
  • How many households and businesses are expected to benefit from the project?
  • Has the local government previously received BearWise funding from the FWC, and if so, how did the process work (e.g., were funds spent in a timely manner, was the equipment fully distributed)?
  • Can the local government demonstrate demand for bear-resistant equipment in their jurisdiction (e.g., are residents and businesses willing to purchase and use the amount of bear-resistant equipment requested)?

Important Notes for Potential Applicants

  • Any county or city in bear range can apply, however, preference will be given to locations within the 18 counties that had the most human-bear conflicts in 2017, which include (in order of highest to lowest number of conflicts): Santa Rosa, Marion, Lake, Collier, Okaloosa, Seminole, Volusia, Orange, Leon, Bay, Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf, Highlands, Putnam, Walton, Pasco, and Lee counties.
  • Governing bodies such as HOAs interested in funding must apply through their local city or county.
  • A minimum 10% match to the requested grant funding is required. Match can include funds, in-kind services and/or a combination of both. All non-grant resources that go into the project will be counted as match, including those from the local government, residents, and/or businesses. Match above 10% will be used as one of the criteria for selection, where local governments that provide a higher match will receive higher priority.
  • Grant funds can only be used for bear-resistant equipment, the labor required to modify containers to make them bear-resistant, and/or the labor required to build containers to secure attractants. Advertising the projects, procuring bids from vendors, obtaining community approval and other project costs would be the responsibility of the local government, residents, and/or businesses and would count toward matching the grant funds.
  • The majority of funding will be given to local governments that have BearWise ordinances which require residents and businesses to keep garbage secure until the morning of pick up. The Legislature requires at least $300,000 of the funding must go to local governments with ordinances. Less than $200,000 of the funding will be provided to local governments without ordinances.
  • Applicants must follow all local government requirements to participate in this grant program, which may include appropriate purchasing protocols and procedures and prior-approval of Board of County Commissioners, City Council, or other governing board, as well Solid Waste department leadership where applicable.
  • Local governments must consult with their waste service provider before submitting an application to ensure all elements of their proposed projects are compatible with their current service agreements/contracts.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss options, including sample ordinances, and implementation ideas with FWC staff before submitting their applications.

Review the BearWise Funding FAQs Adobe PDF to learn more.


Fiscal Year 2016 - 2017 BearWise Funding Summary Table Adobe PDF

Fiscal Year 2017 - 2018 BearWise Funding Summary Table Adobe PDF 


Keep Bears Wild, Be BearWise

Are bears spending too much time in your community? Consider becoming BearWise and minimize negative interactions!  By securing garbage, you can minimize bears lingering in the community.  BearWise communities protect both people and bears. 


BearWise: A Commitment and a Way of Life

When people intentionally or inadvertently feed bears, both people and bears lose.  BearWise communities commit to learning to coexist with bears, knowing when and how to report bear activity, and securing all potential food sources.  The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies External Website aims to prevent human-bear conflicts to protect people and bears across the 15 states of the Southeastern U.S. with a BearWise webpage External Website. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission passed a statewide resolution Adobe PDF in 2015 highlighting the importance of securing attractants.


BearWise Works! 

There are at least 19 communities Adobe PDF throughout North America who have successfully reduced human-bear conflicts by adopting Bear Wise practices.  Hurlburt Air Field in Okaloosa County reduced their human-bear conflicts by 70% when they adopted BearWise principles.  Wingfield North in Seminole County experienced a significant drop in human-bear conflicts within a few months of implementing their BearWise practices. The communities of St. Teresa and Alligator Point in Franklin County and Ave Maria in Collier County are starting to use BearWise practices and are seeing reductions in their conflicts with bears and other wildlife. Hog Wild BBQ in Carrabelle, FL took steps to secure their restaurant dumpster with modified lids and reduced the number of bear encounters significantly. 


Bear in TreeBenefits of BearWise

Bear reports have increased five-fold in the last decade in Florida. FWC can assist communities in becoming BearWise.

Why be BearWise?  The most important reason to be BearWise is to protect people and bears. However, being BearWise can protect your local community   organization External Website (e.g. HOA, city, county) from being held liable Adobe PDF if a person is injured by a bear. Bears that come into neighborhoods and get rewarded with easily accessible food begin to lose their natural fear of people.  Once a bear spends more and more of its time in a neighborhood, its chances of survival drop as it is more exposed to vehicle strikes, illegal shooting, or trapping and removal by FWC to protect public safety.

Remember, ‘a fed bear is a dead bear!’ 

BearWise communities:

  • Report fewer human-bear conflicts
  • Increase confidence of their residents in enjoying the outdoors in their neighborhoods
  • Attract fewer raccoons, rodents, and other nuisance wildlife which can be vectors of disease
  • Respond more effectively to wildlife encounters
  • Receive recognition for high standards of safety and prevention of human-bear conflicts

 Ready to get started? Take Action!

FWC Facts:
The Florida black bear is one of three subspecies of bears recognized in the southeastern United States.

Learn More at AskFWC