Wildlife officials want $600K to deal with black bears, test bear DNA

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State wildlife officials are asking lawmakers to give them more than $600,000 to deal with bears in light of what they're calling the worst black bear attack in Florida's history.

Channel 9's Bianca Castro found part of the money would go to do DNA testing.

It's no secret central Florida is home to hundreds of bears. A sign on Markham Woods Road in western Seminole County warns residents may come across bears, and the state wants more money to better track them through DNA.

Resident Bobby Vonherbulis has learned to live with black bears, saying he sees them nearly every day.

"We don't call (FWC) every time there's a bear," he said. "I mean, it's a part of our property."

But plenty of other residents do call. The state reported 6,726 phone calls to its bear complaint hotline last year, the most calls it has ever received.

In November, wildlife officials euthanized two bears after an attack on a woman.

DNA testing later showed officials they put down the wrong bears. It's why part of the $645,000 extra they want would go toward new DNA testing through hair samples.

Those tests would help officials keep track of bears' identities, patterns and populations.

"We have research from about 10 years ago and those data are now a little outdated," said FWC's director for habitat and species conservation, Thomas Eason.

The money would also pay for more staff and educational campaigns, officials said.

No one from FWC got back to Channel 9 when we called to ask how often they test bears for DNA now and whether they'll create a policy of waiting until tests come back to euthanize a bear.

County officials are also doing their part to help the bear problem. They're hoping for grant money to pay for bear-proof trash cans for residents who want to keep bears off their property.