June 2018 E-Newsletter
What's New in the FAA
What's New Nationally
By Randa Griffin
Bears are a fact of life in many parts of Florida, and apartment communities can do their part toward peaceful coexistence between the human and bear populations. Through its BearWise program and grants, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can help.
"Bears occupy about 45 percent of the state, and we’ve got three pretty big populations: in the Panhandle, Central Florida, and South Florida," said Dave Telesco, coordinator of the FWC’s Bear Management Program.
Telesco explained Florida differs from other states in that its urban and rural communities are often close together, which makes it fairly common to see bears in residential areas.
"Normally the bear populations are out in the wild, but in Florida, we have places like Sanford, which is essentially right in the middle of the Ocala National Forest," Telesco said. "The transition from rural to urban is instantaneous."
Since 2007, the FWC has been distributing funds to communities, businesses and local governments to increase bear awareness through its BearWise program. Along with increasing peoples understanding of black bear behavior, the program aims to keep people and bears safe through some simple steps.
Telesco said about a third of the calls FWC receives are from people reporting a bear digging through their garbage. Leftovers and food scraps may seem like trash to us, but they provide plenty of calories for a bear that can pick up the scent from more than a mile away. Bird feeders and pet food left outside can also attract hungry bears and provide easy opportunities for food that may encourage the bear to return.
"We like to say bears are smart enough to be lazy, so if they can get more calories from foraging in neighborhoods than by picking up acorns and berries in the forest, they’ll do that," Telesco explained. "The more they do that, the less wild and more used to people they become, and that’s when we have a public safety risk."
The biggest step in becoming BearWise is to stop attracting them with food, Telesco says Property managers can install bear-resistant trash cans and dumpsters to prevent bears from hanging around areas apartment communities. In addition, Telesco advises everyone to call and report anytime a bear is spotted, especially in apartment communities where a greater number of people could potentially come into contact with the bear.
"Honestly, there’s some pluses when talking about an apartment community versus a traditional community [of single-family homes] because the apartment community has one focal area where we can try to secure things, compared to a traditional community where each house has multiple things we’re trying to secure," Telesco explained.
By making a few changes, property management and apartment residents can work together to make a community BearWise. Telesco points out that apartment residents are already accustomed to having to comply with certain rules within the community, so BearWise practices would just be another condition for residents to follow. Spreading awareness about black bear behavior, reporting any bear activity, and securing food and trash are the most important things FWC encourages people to do in order to protect themselves and the bears.
This year, to help offset costs and provide guidance, FWC’s grant program is awarding funds to city and county governments to apply toward becoming BearWise. Telesco says replacing or modifying trash cans or dumpsters can be costly, so the grant program is a way for FWC to help even the playing field. The program requires a 10 percent cost share and only city or county governments may apply. Telesco encourages multifamily communities to approach their local city or county governments and ask the municipalities to apply on behalf of the multifamily communities.
BearWise offers tips, aid, and funds to communities experiencing black bear encounters, as a way to keep communities and bears safe. Black bears are the only type of bear found in Florida and Telesco points out they may look big and scary, but they’re wary creatures who will often run from humans.
"Bears are not interested in people; they’re interested in what we can offer," he said.
Brandon Gay, a member of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando and maintenance supervisor for ContraVest, took the championship with a smooth, error-free performance.
For Gay, the third time was indeed the charm. After two other trips to the finals, Gay, a maintenance supervisor for ContraVest, took home the 2018 Maintenance Mania crown. It was his first top-three finish.The Maintenance Mania National Championships were held June 15 at Apartmentalize in San Diego.
Other finalists from Florida were John Perez, Camden Property Trust, Bay Area Apartment Association, and Jimmy Garcia, Matrix Residential, Apartment Association of Greater Orlando.
See the full story here.
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