No Hunting in Florida Black Bear Management Plan

By: FWC Release; Troy Kinsey
By: FWC Release; Troy Kinsey

Tallahassee, Florida - November 10, 2011 -

After dwindling to as few as 300 bears in the 1970s, the Florida black bear population has rebounded to an estimated 3,000 bears today. Bears and their cubs roam forests and swamps from Eglin Air Force Base in the Panhandle to Ocala National Forest in the state’s midsection and Big Cypress National Preserve in Southwest Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), which worked with its partners to increase the state’s black bear population, today released a new draft management plan for the bear and is asking for public input. Both a summary of public feedback and the draft plan will go before the Commission at its February 2012 meeting.

“The Florida black bear is truly a conservation success story. Bear populations have clearly benefited from broad public support and diligent conservation efforts across Florida, particularly in those communities where black bears have become more common,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “We welcome the public’s thoughts on how to best continue our bear conservation efforts in the future, as both our human and bear populations expand.”

The goal of the draft management plan is to “maintain sustainable black bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and people.” It includes measurable objectives regarding bear populations, habitat, citizen education and outreach, and human-bear conflicts.

The Florida black bear currently does not meet the criteria of being at high risk of extinction, based on the FWC’s Biological Status Review on the species completed in early 2011. When a bear management plan is approved, the bear will no longer be on the state’s list of threatened species. A similar process was followed for the bald eagle, which is no longer listed as a state threatened species but is carefully managed through specific conservation measures established under an FWC management plan.

The FWC is seeking public input on the draft bear management plan. The open process will include four public workshops: Bristol (Nov. 22), Naples (Nov. 29), Deland (Dec. 6), and Gainesville (Dec. 13). Go to MyFWC.com/Bear to access workshop details, read the plan and comment online.

The draft bear management plan includes:

§ Establishment of seven bear management units (BMUs) to provide localized bear management and public involvement appropriate to the area, from about 1,000 bears in the Central BMU, which includes Ocala National Forest, to about 20 bears in the Big Bend BMU, which includes Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

§ A section on the history of bear hunting in Florida. A bear hunt is not proposed in the plan. Currently, Florida black bears may not be hunted, harmed or killed, and similar prohibitions would continue under a rule proposed in the plan.

§ Creation of “Bear Smart Communities” in areas of high bear activity. Human-bear conflicts are on the rise in Florida. In 2010, the FWC received more than 4,000 calls from citizens about bears. In the past 10 years, more than half of those calls were related to bears rummaging through garbage. A “Bear Smart Community” would involve residents, local governments, businesses and schools in changing people’s behaviors to reduce human-bear conflicts.

“People’s involvement in conserving bears is critical,” Wiley said. “For example, employees at the U.S. Air Force’s Hurlburt Field have an active bear education program for base residents and recently acquired hundreds of bear-proof garbage cans. Those efforts dramatically reduced the number of bears wandering into their neighborhoods.”

Black bears are generally shy and nonaggressive toward humans. But bears can smell food from more than a mile away and so are tempted to leave forests and swamps to dine on garbage and pet food that is left outdoors and unsecured.

The diet of Florida black bears is mostly vegetarian, with 15 percent insects, and 5 percent animal matter. The bear’s menu includes saw palmetto, acorns, ferns, blackberries, bees, alligator eggs, armadillo and opossum. Male bears typically weigh between 250 and 400 pounds; females are smaller, weighing 125 to 250 pounds. At birth, a bear cub is about the size of a can of soda and weighs less than a pound.

Conservation of Florida wildlife habitats on both public and privately owned lands helped ensure the rebounding bear population had room to grow. However, expected future loss of large forests is the major long-term challenge to maintaining black bears in a growing state of nearly 19 million people. The adult male black bear rambles over a 60,000-acre range; the female’s range is 15,000 acres. The more immediate danger to a black bear is crossing the road. Being hit by a car or truck is the major cause of known bear deaths in the state, with 158 bears killed or euthanized after being injured on highways in 2010.

The Florida black bear is among the 62 wildlife species that soon will join the list of Florida 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 then updated at specified intervals. Those management plans give citizens an active role in Florida’s efforts to conserve its diverse wildlife for future generations.

Suggestions on revising the bear plan will be accepted online through Jan. 10, 2012, at MyFWC.com/Bear, where more information also is available on the Florida black bear.


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  • by Rocky Location: FL Resident on Dec 8, 2011 at 05:49 PM
    The original draft of this plan called for an ultimate goal of 9,000 black bear in the state. In order to reach that goal the FWC would have to control 2/3 of all land in the state of Florida. If you believe there are only 3000 bear in the state at present, you are sadly mistaken. Several breeding populations are left out in their plan.
  • by sammy on Nov 11, 2011 at 07:03 AM
    the problem is the guess work that takes place with the personel in charge of asumming that there are 3000 bears in the state ,with no real effort taken to recieve an accurate count.I live in one of these areas and know for a fact and with picture evidence from friends and family in our small little corner of the forest in one day at the same time their were trail cam pictures taken of 23 bears in a radious of about 20 miles.
  • by Fred Location: Florida resident on Nov 11, 2011 at 06:47 AM
    I am tired of hearing that there is NO MORE LAND IN FL. FOR BEARS. The US Forest Service has not sold 1 foot of land. The state forest has purchased 1,000's of ac's. of land. The problem is that the bears have overpopulated that land and are moving out into other places in Fl to find food. Word is going around of an FWC staff hunter being attacked a couple of weeks ago east of Tall. while hunting. The hunter shot the bear. What no press releases from the FWC? They are scared of the animal rights lovers.
  • by wondering Location: here on Nov 11, 2011 at 06:30 AM
    What does bear meat taste like?
  • by Surly Location: Grrr on Nov 11, 2011 at 03:40 AM
    @last bear alive -- Populations still have be controlled in the habitat that remains to them. Or is that too complicated to comprehend? Hint -- under-populated as a function of total state area, OVER-POPULATED as a function of total habitat area. Where there can be bears, they are too crowded -- and need culling.
  • by 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 Location: fl. on Nov 10, 2011 at 06:37 PM
    3000 are not that many in a state the size of fl.
  • by Kevin aka Reality Location: Monticello on Nov 10, 2011 at 04:49 PM
    Idiocy at its finest . To succesfully Co exist with any species and maintain Balance ....you HUNT IT. Granted , it must be done ethically . No single hunter needs to take 20 Bears in a season , and the sale of inner parts should be strictly Illegal. However , the PETA idiots and "Pelosi" Greenies are the reason SOUTH FLORIDA is literally over run with Gators. Any other State where hunting is allowed these species do just fine , and the numbers are kept manageable. Another FACT: Steel Shot does NOT kill a Duck quickly in many instances like lead does. The shot Duck must flail wounded many times and die slower. BUT YET THE "Greenies" thought that was a good idea too. QUIT LETTING PEOPLE THAT DONT EVER GO OUTSIDE or have WOODS SENSE regulate Outdoor Sports. Same reason recreational bag limits are closed but Commercial limits are wide open. Plain Dumb.
  • by Lost Creek Boy Location: Wakulla on Nov 10, 2011 at 03:58 PM
    Why will it take several 3 to 4 year olds being dragged off by hungry bears before state wildlife officials will get the courage to put forth a REAL management plan?? This is an OUTRAGE. Their plan is obviously a mirror of the alligator management plan from years gone by. Now, we get little old ladies being dragged into drainage canals by 11 foot gators. God forbid that panthers ever make a real comeback. This is truly an outrage. The FWC has no courage ... their policy makers are mere puppets of the the animal rights legal goons. ASPCA / Humane Society / PETA -- they are all TERRORIST organizations, as far as I'm concerned. If you agree with their agendas or send them money to support them ... you're a fool.
  • by poorman Location: tally on Nov 10, 2011 at 02:05 PM
    how are they a nuisance? because they get in your garbage? instead of leaving your garbage out in the open for them...lock it up in one of the broke down cars in your front yard...seems like only ones complaining about them are the hillbillies that wanna kill'em for the hell of it.
  • by jack on Nov 10, 2011 at 01:09 PM
    they had NO idear how many bears are around..I seen a picture yesterday with a deer feeder and there were 7 bears there eating ,,,,this is in one little place ,,,here is what needs to be done .....open up season alll year with no limit...same on all the deers all over everywhere running into cars and trucks ,,,I seen 3 bears in one night on high way 20 all 3 were in a 1/2 mile of each other ..
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