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Apopka City Council considers ordinance for bear-proof trash cans

About 10,000 homes surrounding Wekiwa Springs State Park will be affected

APOPKA, Fla. – The Apopka City Council is voting on an ordinance that would allow residents to only leave their trash cans outside between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. on designated garbage pickup days in an effort to decrease the presence of bears.

Additionally, the ordinance would make bear-proof trash cans available to residents for $50 each. Residents with the bear-resistant cans would have the privilege of leaving them at the curb outside of that 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. window.

The ordinance would affect about one-third of Apopka homes and only apply to certain “bear zones” within the city that are prone to bear activity, focusing on the areas surrounding Wekiwa Springs State Park.

"We want to really focus in on that area that we know has bears moving around,” Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson said.

The ordinance also requires residents to hang their bird feeders high enough that bears cannot reach them, as well as prohibits pet food from being left outside to avoid attracting the hungry animals.

Apopka officials are working with the FWC to get a $100,000 grant to purchase the trash cans.

As of now, there are no penalties planned for those who don’t comply with the ordinance. However, Nelson says this could change.

"We're hopeful to get voluntary compliance, but if we see we're not getting compliance, obviously we'll want to reach out and make sure they understand what the ordinance is all about. If not, we can also take action to make it a finable offense,” he said.

Bria Williams has lived in Apopka for six years and usually puts her family’s trash cans outside the morning of garbage pickup day. Although she does not live within the city’s bear zone limits, she and her husband are familiar with bears “getting into the garbage can, leaving a trail of garbage between the houses."

Williams said that although the new ordinance may be a “burden” for residents who would have to wake up early, it may be beneficial for those who live within the bear zones.

"If you live in a neighborhood that is prevalent to bear sightings, then you wouldn't want to keep the garbage out for days on end, especially if it's full of garbage,” Williams said.

The city council plans to look over the ordinance for the second time later this month. If it is approved, Apopka residents can expect those bear-proof trash cans to be made available sometime this November.