Bear Plan FAQs | Bear Listing Status FAQs | Bear Hunting FAQs
How many bears are there in Florida?
The best scientifically valid population estimates total 2,500 to 3,000 bears statewide. Bears currently occupy 18 percent of their historic range in eight relatively isolated bear populations. While some populations appear to be doing well, others are clearly still recovering.
What do I do if I see a bear?
If you encounter a bear at close range, remain standing upright, back up slowly and speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice.
Do NOT feed or intentionally attract bears. If a bear eats something on your property, take note of what it is and secure it once the bear leaves. (See our advice on how to do so below).
NEVER approach or surprise a bear. If you see a bear from a distance, enjoy the experience, but do not move toward the bear. If you are close, do not make any sudden or abrupt movements. Back way slowly and be sure the bear has an obvious escape route.
If you are in your yard,
- Make sure that you are in a safe area and that the bear has a clear escape route. Then, make noise or bang pots and pans to scare the bear away.
- Do NOT turn your back, play dead, climb a tree or run. Back away slowly into the house or secure area.
- Avoid direct eye contact. Bears and many other animals may view this as aggressive behavior.
- Report any bear that is threatening the safety of humans, pets or livestock, or causing property damage to the FWC (see the "contact us" page).
Are black bears fast runners or good climbers?
Absolutely! Bears can run up to 35 miles per hour and climb 100 feet up a tree in 30 seconds! Do NOT run or climb a tree when you encounter a bear.
- Don't run. Running triggers a chase instinct in many animals, including bears. You can't outrun a bear.
- Don't climb a tree. Bears are excellent tree climbers. Mother black bears often send their cubs up a tree when they sense danger. You don't want to end up in a tree with a couple of cubs above you and a mother bear below you! If a bear chases you, you'll just end up fending off a bear in a tree rather than on the ground.
Should I play dead? (Short answer = no)
Don't 'play dead' or turn your back on the bear. Back away slowly, make sure the bear has a clear escape route. Stop and hold your ground if your movement away seems to irritate instead of calm the bear.
If a bear feels threatened, they may clacking their teeth together, moan, blow, huff, or paw the ground. The bear is showing you that it is as uncomfortable with the situation as you are. These are not indications of aggressive intent or an imminent attack. Truly predatory or aggressive black bears are eerily silent.
What do I do if the bear stands up on its hind legs?
If the bear stands up, this is NOT an aggressive behavior. The bear is only trying to see you better to figure out what you are and assess whether or not you are a threat.
Back away slowly, make sure the bear has a clear escape route.
What do I do if a bear comes towards me or attacks?
If the bear paws the ground, huffs and puffs, clacks and snorts, or runs directly at you, they are trying to scare you off. If you stand your ground, the bear will likely stop and move away.
No matter what happens, do not run away. Continue slowly backing away, talking and holding up your arms. The bear may charge or vocalize several times until he is comfortable turning his back on you and leaving.
While there have been no predatory bear attacks on people in Florida, people have been bitten and scratched by bears defending themselves, cubs, or food sources. If a black bear attacks you: Fight back aggressively. People in other states have successfully fended off black bear attacks using rocks, sticks, or even their bare hands!
Bears are wild animals and must be respected. Even though they are typically quiet and shy animals, they have the potential to seriously harm humans. Do not take unnecessary risks!
What can I do to protect my property?
Living with Bears. Here, we provide a wealth of information on how to protect your family, yourself and the bears.
What is the status of the Bear Management Plan?
The draft Bear Management Plan was opened for public comment from Nov. 10, 2011 to Jan. 10, 2012. The draft plan and a summary of public comments were brought to the Commission for its consideration on Feb. 9, 2012. Based on public comments and Commission direction, the plan was revised and re-opened for public comment from April 13 to June 1, 2012. The revised plan and a summary of comments received will be brought to the Commissioners for final consideration at the June 27 and 28, 2012 meeting. If the Commissioners approve the Bear Management Plan, the black bear will be removed from the list of State Threatened Species and Florida will begin conserving the bear according to the 10-year management plan.
What about the work that was done before on the previous draft? Is the Commission starting over?
No. The work by FWC staff and involved stakeholders on the previous draft is a great start. The plan is simply being updated and revised before additional public input is sought. Public comments on the previous draft are being considered as staff make the necessary revisions to the plan.
Will the bear be delisted before the management plan is approved?
No. FWC rules require that the management plan be approved before a species can be removed from the list.
What is the goal of the draft Bear Management Plan?
The goal of the draft plan is to maintain sustainable black bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and people. Further, the plan will include management tasks to ensure that the bear population will be maintained so that it will not become threatened in the future.
Under the draft plan, will the hunting of bears be allowed?
The plan does not propose a bear harvest. The plan acknowledges the controversial nature of bear hunting and the need to incorporate a wider array of stakeholder involvement if hunting is to be considered as part of Florida's bear management program. Currently, black bears are protected in Florida and may not be hunted, harmed or killed; that protection is continued under the draft management plan.
What is the desired outcome for bears in Florida as a result of the plan?
Implementation of the draft plan should increase the chance that healthy, self-sustaining and genetically connected bear populations will thrive in Florida and conflicts with people will be minimized.
Why is the bear's status as a threatened species being reviewed?
The FWC passed new rules in September 2010 for conserving and managing threatened species in Florida. The new rules require biological status reviews (BSRs) be completed on all the state's threatened species and species of special concern. Bears are one of 61 species that have recently undergone a BSR to evaluate their risk of extinction under FWC's new listing rules.
Who reviewed the bear's status?
A group of three experts appointed by the Commission reviewed the data on the Florida black bear. The group included one Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute scientist and 2 independent scientists. The group submitted their preliminary findings to 5 independent scientists with experience in bear research and management for review. The report was returned with peer review comments and will be considered for final approval by the FWC Commissioners.
Where did the information that was reviewed come from?
FWC solicited information from the public as well as internal reports solicitation period about the status of the 61 species to be reviewed closed Nov. 1
What was the result of the bear's status review?
The findings of the biological review group were that the black bear did not meet any of the listing criteria for threatened species status. The preliminary report was reviewed by 5 independent scientists. While peer reviewers had differing opinions on the details included in the preliminary BSR, all agreed that the bear does not meet any of Florida's threatened listing criteria. The BSR will be further reviewed by FWC senior leadership and staff will make a recommendation to the Commission for them to make a final decision about the status of the species in June 2011.
Will the Florida black bear be removed from threatened species list?
While preliminary BSR findings indicate the bear does not meet listing criteria, the final decision on the status of bears rests with FWC Commissioners. In addition, no species can be removed from the state threatened list without a management plan that has been approved by the Commission. Therefore, if the Commission decides to accept the BSR findings in June 2011, the bear will still be listed as a threatened species until the Commission approves the bear management plan that is currently being revised.
Is it legal to hunt black bears in Florida?
No. It is illegal to hunt bears in Florida, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is not proposing a bear hunting season.
Was it ever legal to hunt bears in Florida?
Yes, but in 1971 bear hunting was closed in most areas of the state; exceptions were Baker and Columbia counties and the Apalachicola National Forest. In 1993, biologists presented a report to the then-Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission on managing black bears in Florida. This report recommended that bear hunting seasons be closed statewide. GFC closed the remaining bear hunting seasons in 1994 because:
- harvesting a species classified as State Threatened was confusing to the public,
- regulation changes reduced harvest of females, resulting in a lack of data needed to use the preferred method to monitor bear populations during that time period, and
- GFC wanted to maintain bears at maximum biological carrying capacity so they would be "resilient against decimating factors".
Does the draft bear management plan propose a hunt?
No. That is not the purpose of the draft bear management plan. The plan focuses on the conservation of the black bear as well as reducing human/bear conflicts. The plan states that hunting could be considered as a management tool sometime in the future, (as is the case in many other states), but acknowledges that additional information from both biological and public policy perspectives will be needed before the Commission would evaluate hunting as an option.
Would hunting bears end human/bear conflicts?
No. Hunting is used to attain wildlife population goals rather than to resolve conflict issues. States that allow bear hunting also have human/bear conflicts. Whenever bears and people live near each other, conflicts are possible as bears seek out human food sources like garbage, bird seed and pet food.
What would it take to hunt bears?
If directed by the Commission to investigate hunting, FWC staff would develop a proposal that would incorporate both biological and social dimensions of a bear hunt. Before considering a hunt, FWC would assess bear population trends and levels in each BMU under consideration for a hunt. In addition, FWC would consider the predicted effects of hunting on bear populations in light of the population objectives for the BMU. FWC would also evaluate the social dimensions of this issue, considering input from the local community where hunting was being considered, as well as the wider public, and evaluate this issue from a statewide public-policy perspective.