Florida black bear

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Florida black bear
A Florida Black Bear.jpg
A Florida black bear in Ocala National Forest
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
Species: U. americanus
Subspecies: U. a. floridanus
Trinomial name
Ursus americanus floridanus
Merriam, 1896

The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is a subspecies of the American black bear that has historically ranged throughout most of Florida and southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The large black-furred bears live mainly in forested areas and have seen recent habitat reduction throughout the state.



Florida black bears are typically large-bodied with shiny black fur, a light brown nose and a short stubby tail.[1] A white chest patch is also common on many but not all the bears.[2] It is currently Florida's largest terrestrial mammal with an average male weight of 300 pounds (140 kg) and a few have grown above 500 pounds (230 kg).[1][2][3] Females generally weigh less and on average are about 198 pounds (90 kg).[2] Average adults have a length of between 4 feet (120 cm) and 6 feet (180 cm), and they also stand between 2.5 feet (76 cm) and 3.5 feet (110 cm) high at the shoulder.[2]


Florida black bears are mainly solitary, except when in groups or pairings during mating season.[4] Although they are solitary mammals, in general, most are not territorial, and typically do not defend their range from other bears.[4] Black bears have good eyesight, acute hearing and an excellent sense of smell .[4]


Florida black bears live mainly in forested habitats, and are common in sand-pine scrub, oak scrub, upland hardwood forests and forested wetlands.[5] Black Bears in Southern Florida are the only subspecies to live in a Sub-Tropical region.[2] To a lesser extent it also inhabits dry prairie and tropical hammock.[2]


Before Florida was settled by Europeans, Florida black bears occupied all of the Florida mainland, and even many of the Florida Keys, with a population around 12,000.[6] The current range is much more sporadic with isolated groups living mainly in protected areas in Florida, Southern Alabama, Southern Georgia and Southern Mississippi.[1][2] Most major populations of Florida black bears live in protected areas. These include Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.[5][6] A study of the Okefenokee-Osceola population found over 500 bears in two study areas. The current bear population in Florida is estimated at more than 3,000 bears.[7]


Florida black bears are omnivores and their diet varies greatly with the seasons, likely because many of their preferred species of flora and fauna are seasonal. In the spring they mainly consume Sabal palmetto, Thalia geniculata, Sus scrofa, Bombus bimaculatus and Camponotus species. In the summer they primarily eat Serenoa repens, Ilex glabra, Rubus species, Phytolacca rigida, Vaccinium species, Camponotus species, and Anisomorpha buprestoides. In the fall, they eat Serenoa repens, Ilex glabra, Nyssa biflora, Vespula species, Apis mellifera, and Dasypus Novemcinctus. [8]


Habitat loss is greatly affecting Florida Black Bear populations. Nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) of wildlife habitat are lost to new development every hour in Florida.[5] Bears being injured or killed by motorists is another threat to regional populations. Since 1976 there have been more than 1,356 documented cases of bears being killed in Florida.[5] Over 100 bears are killed on Florida roadways each year, and in 2002 a record 132 deaths occurred.[5] That makes roadkill the number one cause of bear death in the state, with 89.5% of bear deaths since 1994 being attributed to such crashes.[5][9] The Florida State Legislature outlawed the hunting of the Florida black bear in 1994.[5]

Biological status review

On June 27, 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) delisted the Florida Black Bear despite (FWC) biologist and affiliates concerns regarding low genetic diversity. According to the report, "Loss of genetic variation may reduce the ability of individuals to adapt to changes in the environment, cause inbreeding depression (Ebert et al. 2002), and increase the probability of extinction (Westemeier et al. 1998)." The decision was based on population size alone. Although FWC said the most recent statewide estimate of the bear population was done in 2002 and new numbers won't be updated until 2016.[10]

In addition to delisting the Florida Black Bear from the list of threatened species rules were adopted "stating it is still illegal to injure or kill a bear in this state, or possess or sell bear parts." [11]

2015 Bear hunt

On August 3, 2015, FWC began selling Special-Use permits for the hunting season beginning on October 24, 2015.[12] The commissioners voted to proceed with it despite public opposition. Of the 40,000 people who responded to the commission's request to comment on the proposed hunt, 75 percent said they wanted no bear hunt, according to the Tampa Bay Times on October 27, 2015.[citation needed] By August 23, 3,778 permits were sold.[13]

On the first day of the hunt 207 bears were killed,[14][full citation needed] including an 80 kg teen bear killed by a 16 year old youth who claimed it was his "dream" to do so.[14][full citation needed] FWC's goal was to have hunters kill 320 bears during the up-to-7 day hunt[14][full citation needed] but 295 were taken after 2 days.[13]

Discouraging bears from human occupied areas

Bear sightings have been increasing in Florida [15] in recent years the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission [16] has posted a number of actions that can be taken to discourage bears from encroaching into human occupied areas. Most importantly, don't allow access to food sources. Keep garbage cans in the garage or put locks on the lids. Don't keep pet foods out doors and don't use feeders. Electric fences are a good way to secure a perimeter. Keep ripe fruit and garden vegetables picked. Clean outdoor grills. Motion activated alarms are effective in scaring bears away.[17]

Legislative action

On December 11, 2015 Senator Darren Soto filed, along with co-sponsor Senator Eleanor Sobel, S.B. 1096 The Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act.[18] this bill would require the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Department of Environmental Protection to create an account within the Nongame Wildlife Trust Fund to assist with funding for bear-resistant trash cans and take certain measures to conserve bear habitat.

A House Bill, H.B. 1055,[19] was filed on December 28, 2015 by Representative Mark S. Pafford and co-sponsored by Representative Dwight Dudley which coincides with S.B. 1096. This bill states it would require similar measures stated in S.B. 1096. Conservation efforts would include changing schedules for controlled burns in bear habitat, permanently banning the harvest of saw palmetto berries, and ban sales of timbering rights to acorn producing oaks. The mention of prohibiting the sale of timber rights on state land was in response to land usage in the Bear Management plan [20] which also included grain farming and cattle ranching on state land. The bills would also require a panel of five biologists and wildlife ecologists appointed by the senate to oversee the Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act.

Endangered Species Act Petition

On March 17, 2016 Various conservation groups throughout Florida lead by the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Department of Interior to request the Florida Black Bear be listed on the Federal Endangered Species Act.[21]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Florida Black Bear Fact Sheet" (PDF). U.S. Forest Service. August 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Scott, Chris (2004). Endangered and Threatened Animals of Florida and Their Habitats. University of Texas. Press. ISBN 0-292-70529-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Anthony, H. E. (2005). Field Book of North American Mammals. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4179-8949-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Behavior & Senses". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "Florida Black Bear Background and Recovery". Defenders of Wildlife. Retrieved 14 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  7. "FWC Approves Black Bear Plan to Conserve Florida's Largest Land Mammal". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 7 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Maehr, David S.; Brady, James R. (1984-01-01). "Food Habits of Florida Black Bears". The Journal of Wildlife Management. 48 (1): 230–235. doi:10.2307/3808478.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Bears and Roads". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. http://myfwc.com/media/2612908/bear-management-plan.pdf
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  12. "Special-Use Bear Permit". FWC. August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Etters, Karl (26 October 2015). "295 bears killed as Florida hunt ends". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 7 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 BBC World Service radio broadcast, BBC Weekend, 2015 October 25, 0700-0830 GMT, United Kingdom.
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  16. "Living with Black Bears". Myfwc.com. Retrieved 2015-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "3 black bear cubs react to motion activated alarm". YouTube. Retrieved 2015-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "S.B. 1096". www.flsenate.gov. Retrieved January 8, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "H.B. 1055". www.flsenate.gov. Retrieved January 8, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Bear Management Plan" (PDF). myfwc.com. Retrieved January 8, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Endangered Species Act". http://ecos.fws.gov. March 17, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>