Florida black bear Article

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Florida black bear
A Florida Black Bear.jpg
A Florida black bear in Ocala National Forest
Scientific classification e
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 short tail and many have brown fur on their muzzles. [1] A white chest patch, called a blaze, is found in about 30% of the population. [2] It is Florida's largest terrestrial mammal, with an average male weight of 300 pounds (140 kg); the largest known male weighed 760 pounds (340 kg) and was found in Seminole County and the largest known female was 400 pounds (180 kg) and found in Liberty County. [3] [1] [4] [5] Females generally weigh about half as much as males. [4] Average adults have a length of between 4 feet (120 cm) and 6 feet (180 cm), standing between 2.5 feet (76 cm) and 3.5 feet (110 cm) high at the shoulder. [4]


Florida black bears are mainly solitary, except when in family groups or pairings during mating season. [6] Although they are solitary mammals, in general, most are not territorial, and typically do not defend their range from other bears. [6] Black bears have good eyesight, acute hearing and an excellent sense of smell. [6] Like all bear species, the Florida black bear has evolved the ability to self-regulate populations based on available calories consumed. After the sperm fertilizes the egg, it begins to multiply until it reaches the blastula stage. It stops growing until winter. During the period of hyperphagia, if the mother bear eats sufficient calories, the two - three of the blastula begin to grow. If the mother is allowed enough access to the food, she will have a higher number of cubs. This delayed growth process is called embryonic diapause. [7]


Florida black bears live mainly in forested habitats, and are common in sand-pine scrub, oak scrub, upland hardwood forests and forested wetlands. [8] Black bears in Southern Florida are the only subspecies to live in a Sub-Tropical region. [4] To a lesser extent, it also inhabits dry prairie and tropical hammock. [4]


Before Florida was settled by Europeans, Florida black bears occupied all of the Florida mainland, and even the upper Florida Keys, with a population of around 11,000. [9] The current range is 45% of the historic Florida range, as well as in southern Alabama, southern Georgia and southern Mississippi. [1] [4] [10] Most major populations of Florida black bears live on or near public lands. These include Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. [8] [9] A study of the Okefenokee-Osceola population found over 500 bears in each of the two study areas, totally over a 1,000 bears. The current bear population in Florida is estimated at more than 4,000 bears. [11] [12]


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. [13]


Habitat loss is affecting Florida black bear populations. Nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) of wildlife habitat are lost to new development every hour in Florida. [8] Vehicle-bear collisions are a threat to regional populations and the top known cause of death for Florida black bears. Since 2012, over 230 bears are killed each year on roadways statewide [14]. The Florida State Legislature closed bear hunting in most of the state in 1974 and closed the remaining areas in 1994. [8]

Biological Status Review

On June 27, 2012, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) delisted the Florida black bear, based on a peer reviewed Biological Status Review. [15] The report used the IUCN Red List criteria [16] to evaluate the species' risk of extinction. In addition, the 2012 Florida Black Bear Management Plan was approved and put into action to prevent the species from being listed in the future. [17]

While the Florida black bear was removed from the state list of threatened species, the Bear Conservation Rule (68A-27.003) was adopted at the same time, providing continued protections to the species. [18]

Florida bear hunt

On August 3, 2015, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners voted to proceed with a bear hunt, [19] 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. [20]

On the first day of the hunt, 207 bears were killed, [21] but 295 were taken after two days.

On June 22, 2016, after hours of testimony from Florida citizens, a vote came for the 2016 hunt. Four out of seven commissioners, including Ron Bergeron, Charles Spotswood, Bo Rivard, and Brian Yablonski, agreed to look into further issues and concerns of the citizens, while postponing a decision for future hunts.

Following this decision, many grassroots efforts continued to help reduce human and bear interactions. Local citizens worked with their counties to encourage bear-resistant trash cans and bear-friendly ordinances to be put in place. Seminole County, Florida became the first to pass such an ordinance.

Discouraging bears from human-occupied areas

Bear sightings have been increasing in Florida [22] in recent years and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission [23] has posted a number of actions that can be taken to discourage bears from encroaching into human-occupied areas. Most important has been the prevention of allowing access to food sources such as those maintained for pets or livestock. In residential areas, keeping garbage cans in garages or putting locks on lids, as well as discouraging the use of outdoor feeders and keeping pet foods outdoors have met with success. Electric fences have also proven successful as a means to secure perimeters from bear incursions. Keeping ripe fruit and garden vegetables picked in suburban residential and rural residential areas and cleaning outdoor grills have also reduced unplanned human-black bear interactions. Motion-activated alarms have also been found to be effective in scaring bears away. [24]

Legislative action

On December 11, 2015, then-state Senator (now-U.S. Congressman) Darren Soto (D-FL) filed, along with co-sponsor state Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL), S.B. 1096 The Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act. [25] 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 Non-Game 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, [26] 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 [27] 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. Neither bill however, received much interest in the House or the Senate and both died.

H.B. 491 was filed in the House on January 24, 2017. [28] It was referred to the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee, Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and Government Accountability Committee on February 6, 2017 and introduced on March 7th. The bill was filed by Senator Mercado.

On February 28, 2017 Senator Linda Stewart of District 13 filed S.B. 1304, [29] a revised version of the Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act. It was referred to the Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation and the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources on March 14, 2017 and on March 15 it was introduced.

Both bills propose steep restrictions on controlled burns and harvest of saw palmetto berries. They also requested a delay in killing the Florida black bear.

Endangered Species Act Petition

On March 17, 2016 Various conservation groups throughout Florida led by the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Department of Interior to request that the Florida black bear be listed on the Federal Endangered Species Act. [30] However, on April 19, 2017, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services released a final decision regarding the Endangered Species Act petition which denied the change in status. [31] This decision was similar to the results of the petition submitted by Inge Hutchinson on June 11, 1990 which was declined in lieu of state actions to protect the Florida black bear. The federal government deemed that federal action would not be necessary so long as the state was offering sufficient protective measures. [30]


  1. ^ a b c "Florida Black Bear Fact Sheet" (PDF). U.S. Forest Service. August 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  2. ^ http://myfwc.com/media/2612908/bear-management-plan.pdf
  3. ^ http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/facts/biology/
  4. ^ a b c d e f Scott, Chris (2004). Endangered and Threatened Animals of Florida and Their Habitats. University of Texas. Press. ISBN  0-292-70529-8.
  5. ^ Anthony, H. E. (2005). Field Book of North American Mammals. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN  1-4179-8949-1.
  6. ^ a b c "Behavior & Senses". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
  7. ^ Template:Cite title=The Physiology and Evolution of Delayed Implantation in Carnivores
  8. ^ a b c d "Florida Black Bear Background and Recovery". Defenders of Wildlife. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Black Bear Distribution Map". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
  10. ^ http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/numbers/
  11. ^ http://myfwc.com/media/4062317/florida-black-bear-finalreport.pdf
  12. ^ "FWC Approves Black Bear Plan to Conserve Florida's Largest Land Mammal". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  13. ^ 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. JSTOR  3808478.
  14. ^ http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/numbers/
  15. ^ http://myfwc.com/media/2273289/Florida-Black-Bear-BSR.pdf
  16. ^ http://www.iucnredlist.org/technical-documents/categories-and-criteria
  17. ^ http://myfwc.com/media/2612908/bear-management-plan.pdf
  18. ^ http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bear/rule-faqs/
  19. ^ http://www.bearstudy.org/website/updates/daily-updates/2805-bears-update-august-3-2015.html
  20. ^ Etters, Karl (26 October 2015). "295 bears killed as Florida hunt ends". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  21. ^ "2015 Florida Black Bear Hunt Summary Report" (PDF). Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  22. ^ "3 bears wrestle on pool deck. Naples, FL". YouTube. 2015-04-14. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  23. ^ "Living with Black Bears". Myfwc.com. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  24. ^ "3 black bear cubs react to motion activated alarm". YouTube. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  25. ^ "S.B. 1096". www.flsenate.gov. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  26. ^ "H.B. 1055". www.flsenate.gov. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  27. ^ "Bear Management Plan" (PDF). myfwc.com. Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  28. ^ http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/491/BillText/__/PDF
  29. ^ http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/1304/BillText/__/HTML
  30. ^ a b https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/profile/speciesProfile?spcode=A08E
  31. ^ https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/04/19/2017-07942/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-90-day-findings-on-two-petitions