FWC Moves Forward on Plan to Manage, Conserve Florida Black Bears

By: FWC Release; Nate Harrington Email
By: FWC Release; Nate Harrington Email

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is moving ahead with its Florida Black Bear management plan.

The Black Bear population has increased 10-fold in the last 40 years, from 300 bears in the 1970s to 3000 bears today.

Hunting and habitat loss contributed to the depletion of Florida's largest land animal, but this new conservation plan should keep the Black Bear off the threatened species list.

Diane Hirth, FWC Communications Coordinator says, "Letting people know you can live with the bears and be safe. We've seen a lot of success and as many as 75-80 percent will say 'Yeah, I took the bear measures and it worked.'"

The FWC says seven bear-management units will be created to help manage bear populations and gather public input about bear impacts.

One of those units would be based in the Big Bend.

More on the Black Bear management plan can be found on the link below.


Feb. 9, 2012 -

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is moving ahead on its plan to manage and conserve Florida black bears so they are never again at risk of extinction. With the bear population rebounding from about 300 to 3,000 over the past 40 years, the FWC recognizes Florida’s conservation success with bears and recommends the state’s largest land mammal be removed from the threatened species list.

The Commissioners today (Feb. 9) discussed the draft Florida Black Bear Management Plan, a proposed black bear conservation rule, and heard public comments and suggestions. Final action on the draft bear management plan and rule was not taken today. The Commissioners are scheduled to take up a revision of the draft plan and the rule during their June meeting.

Pointing out a paragraph in the draft bear plan tracking the fall and rise of Florida’s bear population, Commissioner Brian Yablonski said, “We had 750,000 people in Florida in 1914 and we had roughly 3,000 bears, and here we are at the last data point in 2002 and we’ve got 17 million people in 2002 and about 3,000 bears. That’s an amazing success story. I think this is a very positive day.”

Commissioner Richard Corbett said, “The major focus is how we manage and protect with a major population increase of bears and a major population increase of humans.”

The draft bear management plan, released on Nov. 10, 2011, was followed by a two-month period of public input, which included public workshops in Bristol, Naples, DeLand and Gainesville. Floridians offered feedback at the workshops, online where the draft plan was posted at MyFWC.com/Bear, and by mailing written comments. About 2,500 comments were received from private citizens and stakeholder groups on the draft plan. Additionally, people had the opportunity to speak at today’s meeting.

The public commented on issues such as updating bear population estimates, reducing human-bear conflicts and continuing the review of land-use changes impacting bear habitat.

Members of the public also expressed opinions on whether to allow bear hunting in Florida and whether taking bears off the state’s threatened species list would impact bear conservation.

FWC staff is recommending following many of the public’s suggestions to change, clarify and improve the overall plan.

Commissioners also gave tentative approval to a proposed FWC rule that would make it unlawful to injure or kill bears, continuing protections similar to the ones granted to bears as a state threatened species. The rule additionally commits the FWC to working with landowners and regulating agencies to guide future land use to be compatible with objectives of the bear plan.

The draft plan proposes:

§ Seven bear management units (BMUs) to reflect areas where Florida’s black bear populations are concentrated. The units would offer the opportunity for local input on managing bear populations and habitat. For example, the Central BMU, based in Ocala National Forest, has the largest estimated population of about 1,000 bears; the East Panhandle BMU encompasses Apalachicola National Forest, with roughly 600 bears; and the South Central BMU in Glades and Highlands counties has about 175 bears.

§ Creation of “Bear Smart Communities” in areas of high bear activity. A “Bear Smart Community” would involve its residents, businesses, public agencies and schools in educating people about how to live in bear country and respond appropriately to human-bear conflicts. For example, the U.S. Air Force’s Hurlburt Field in Okaloosa County switched to bear-proof garbage cans and dumpsters, instituted an active education program and trained personnel in appropriate responses to human-bear conflicts. After two years of these efforts, Hurlburt experienced a 70-percent reduction in human-bear conflicts.

The Florida black bear is among the 62 wildlife species that soon will join the list of species, like the bald eagle, already under an FWC management plan. Florida’s new threatened species conservation model requires that management plans be created for all species that have been state-listed and that plans be updated at specified intervals.

Those management plans give citizens an active role in Florida’s efforts to conserve its diverse wildlife for future generations.

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  • by hunter Location: woods on Mar 23, 2012 at 07:40 AM
    bears bears they are everywhere now they have learned to eat from garbage cans and they are breeding and staying in town, we call them 2nd generation grabage bears they no nothing about surviving in the wild. these are the ones that need to be hunted, the wild ones are no trouble, and there number is just another estimate, like counting fish in water.
  • by Animals are wrong Location: Tallahassee on Feb 10, 2012 at 09:58 AM
    I support the killing of bears, aligators and rattlesnakes. Kill them till they are all gone we don't need them anyway. The ecosystem is a lie taught by liberal animal loving fools. I also support the forced deportation of all animal rights folks to Peru.
  • by Fred Location: Liberty on Feb 10, 2012 at 07:31 AM
    I attended the FWC meeting on the 9th. The FWC said that there were about 3000 bears in Fl. at the start of the 1900's. After the meeting I asked a FWC staffer where I could get a copy of that bear count record. They said that was just an estimate and that they really don't know how many bears were in Fl. at the start of the 1900's. They didn't know then and they don't know now. I bet there are way more than 3000. Anyway this is a people management plan not a bear management plan.
  • by Hunter/Gatherer Location: Trailer in deep woods on Feb 10, 2012 at 05:39 AM
    Me want bear to kill. Me not like grocery stores as I have to take bath and be around people. Me like blood and kill. Me don't care if bear extinct as I find other mammal to kill.
  • by Buddy Location: Crawfordville on Feb 10, 2012 at 05:29 AM
    First off I question the population numbers. The F.W.C. has always estimated animal populations in ranges. (1-100, 101- 200) ext. So to say the population is 3,000 statewide I think is false. Second the F.W.C. is in charge of managing wildlife in the state anyone who is in the field of wildlife management knows hunting is the best management tool at hand. However the f.w.c. is not managing wildlife they are managing people which is not there responsibility. Since the f.w.c commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislatures, the people have no due process. The people cannot fire any of the commissioners. Also research the commissions and you will find none of they have any wildlife, fishery or forestry back ground.
  • by Foxgloves Location: Leon county on Feb 9, 2012 at 04:48 PM
    I have one that visits through my property and he is a big fella. Manages his welfare just fine. Goes and comes as he pleases. Makes his own way in the world, and not on a debit card, welfare or food stamps. Looks to be fine without government help. I hope he lives a long and happy life.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 9, 2012 at 06:38 PM in reply to Foxgloves
      Me too. That said, you might think about using a little extra caution if you should happen to be using a cane, walker, or crutches while out in "his" woods. Or if it becomes obvious he is no longer in good condition...
  • by God Bless America on Feb 9, 2012 at 04:36 PM
    yea sure, I saw a bear cruising down I-10 at 70 mph. Thay can't drive at all, he ran off the road.
  • by ConservativeHippie on Feb 9, 2012 at 04:27 PM
    "Management" without limited hunting is just blowing smoke. What FWC is saying is that they have no effective management policy on the Florida black bear.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 9, 2012 at 06:26 PM in reply to ConservativeHippie
    • reply
      by Realistic on Feb 10, 2012 at 05:34 AM in reply to ConservativeHippie
      manage your own life. The bear count is still not healthy
      • reply
        by Surly on Feb 10, 2012 at 07:12 AM in reply to Realistic
        Where there are bears, there are TOO MANY BEARS PER ACRE. News item for ya -- the whole state is NO LONGER BEAR HABITAT. The core problem is that you are selfish -- you want to see bears standing on the side of the road when you drive around on Saturday afternoon, like they do in Yellowstone Park, simply because it entertains you. Second news flash -- THAT IS NOT A HEALTHY SITUATION. Especially for the bears, who need to be wild animals w/ lots of elbow room, not over-crowded garbage hounds.
  • by Steve Location: Florida Native/resident on Feb 9, 2012 at 03:30 PM
    For forty years I didn't consider looking for bears at night on US 27, or US 19, but that stretch of highway between Perry and Chiefland, Florida is a bad place to be, after dark. The bears in this area are as numerous as the alligators. Alligators are now classified as "GAME" and must be hunted to control their population. Many bears are killed on highways in Florida every night on the Georgia/Florida Parkway, and other major north central Florida, south central Georgia roadways. It's time to make these things an alternative to 'the other white meat.' These folks need and must issue stamps, and limits, the same way deer or raccoons are hunted. 'Gators are like wild hogs, and wild hogs like black bears. They MUST be hunted, to control their populations. Read that article. It's not Al' Gore placing this before you. Thanx.
    • reply
      by Glenn on Feb 10, 2012 at 05:36 AM in reply to Steve
      The bears are grouped in that one area because they have not much alternatives for habitat. Find another source for your fetish
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2012 at 07:17 AM in reply to Glenn
        What is your point? Enough people have to leave the State to create enough habitat to support enough bears to suit your fancy? You first...
  • by Anonymous on Feb 9, 2012 at 01:54 PM
    Black bears are causing wrecks, going up on people's porches, and in line for attacking children in their yards. I hope you are meaning you will keep them on a reserve because they are too numerous for the population of people now. You know that and we know it. There are way too many black bears for people to deal with safely.
    • reply
      by Larry on Feb 9, 2012 at 04:07 PM in reply to Anonymous
      Some humans are doing the same but we're not going to thin them out, although selectively it sounds like a good idea.
    • reply
      by Mama Bear on Feb 9, 2012 at 04:34 PM in reply to Anonymous
      There are too many people for people to deal with safely....... Can we put some on reserve? PS-You know we don't own the Earth, right?
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2012 at 07:14 AM in reply to Mama Bear
        Actually, I know we do own it.
      • reply
        by Animals are wrong on Feb 10, 2012 at 09:58 AM in reply to Mama Bear
        Yes we do own it.
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