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[UPDATE] Florida Black Bear Removed from Threatened List

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; AP
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; AP

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, June 9, 2011……

The Florida black bear, the Brown pelican and 14 other species are set to be removed from the list of threatened species in Florida after a unanimous vote Wednesday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission began a review four years ago of the list of threatened species in an effort to determine which animals were no longer at risk of extinction in Florida, looking at various factors indicating the risk to the animal’s survival, including overall population size and the size of the species’ range.

The black bear is a symbol of Florida’s conservation effort to the point that it is one of two animals pictured on the state’s “Conserve Wildlife” license plates. The other is the snowy egret, which was also removed from the list by Wednesday’s vote.

The commission, meeting in St. Augustine, voted 6-0 to accept the recommendations of groups set up to review 61 species for possible delisting. The panel recommended keeping 40 species, including the burrowing owl and the Roseate spoonbill, on the state threatened list, removing the 16 animals, and keeping five species as “species of special concern” because there wasn’t enough information to make a final decision.

A number of well known species that are federally endangered or threatened weren’t part of the review, including the Florida Panther, the manatee, a number of different sea turtle species, and the American alligator and American crocodile.

The change in status followed the adoption of a new classification system, work on which began in 2007.

"The whole process represents the most comprehensive assessment ever of Florida's threatened wildlife," Dr. Elsa Haubold, the FWC's leader of the Threatened Species Management System, said in a statement released Wednesday. "The reviews provide us - and the public - with information necessary to help us draft management plans to conserve and prevent extinction of Florida's wildlife."

None of the changes will go into effect right away. State biologists will now create management plans for the population – essentially deciding what it will mean for the particular species to no longer be on the list, such as whether hunting should be allowed. Commission staff have said that in the case of the black bear, any decision on hunting is a long way off.

State wildlife officials say there were only a few hundred black bears in Florida in the middle of the last century, but through conservation efforts the population had rebounded to more than 2,000 by the beginning of this century even with human population pressures.

The 16 species approved Wednesday for removal from the state threatened list were the:

Alligator snapping turtle
Brown pelican
Florida black bear
Florida mouse
Florida tree snail
Gopher frog
Lake Eustis pupfish
Limpkin Pine Barrens treefrog
RivulusSnowy egret
Suwannee cooter
White ibis

And in the Keys, the:

Peninsula ribbon snake
Red rat snake
Striped mud turtle

______________

St. Augustine, FL (AP) - The Florida black bear will no longer
be a protected species.

The native bear, considered threatened since 1974, was among 16
species removed from the state list Wednesday by the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A study found that the bear's
numbers had increased from 500 in the 1950s to more than 2,000 in
the early part of this decade.

Commissioners voted 6-0 to remove the bear from the list, but
the change will not take place officially until they come up with a
management plan -- which could open the door to bear hunting in
Florida.

Since 1998, the bear's image has been featured on the state's
"Conserve Wildlife" specialty license plate, which has generated
about $500,000 per year for wildlife commission programs.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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