FWC conducts research independently as well as through partnerships with universities and other state or federal agencies on the Florida black bear.
Research topics have included:
- bee yard depredation,
- denning and litter sizes,
- diseases and parasites,
- habitat selection,
- population characteristics.
The results of such research have been published in scientific journals, graduate theses, agency bulletins, and reports. Most of the research is available from state and university libraries. To assist in your search, the citations for these publications are listed in the bibliography and Reports & Presentations page.
Recent Ongoing and Completed Research:
The FWC and graduate students from several universities (University of Florida, University of Kentucky, and University of Tennessee) are currently conducting or have recently completed several research projects on Florida black bears.
These projects are:
- Bears in the urban-wildland interface, 2005 - Ongoing
- Determining the impact of relocation on nuisance Florida black bear in central Florida, 2004 - 2007
- South-central Florida Black Bear Conservation, 2004 - Ongoing
- Demodicosis in the Ocala Population, 2000 - Ongoing:
- Non-invasive Assessment of Black Bear Movements and Abundance Relative to U.S. 98 Within the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, 2003 - 2005:
- Statewide Assessment of Road Impacts on Bears in Florida, 2001 - 2005:
- Cub survival and denning ecology of Florida black bears in Ocala National Forest, 2002 - 2004:
- Genetic Structure and Gene Flow Among Florida Black Bear Populations, 2002 - 2004:
- Habitat Use and Genetic Relatedness of Female Black Bears in the Ocala National Forest, 2002 - 2004:
- Black Bear Movements and Habitat Use Relative to Roads in Ocala National Forest, 2000 - 2004:
- Northern St. Johns River Black Bear Assessment, 2002 - 2003:
Bears in the urban-wildland interface, 2005 - Ongoing
The goal of this University of Florida graduate project is to closely monitor the movements and activities of Florida black bears living in the urban-wildland interface of Ocala National Forest. Objectives for this study are:
- Document fine-scale habitat use of bears utilizing the urban-wildland interface; and
- Assess the effects of habitat quality, quantity, and distribution on the movements and behaviors of bears inhabiting the urban-wildland interface. Data is also being collected that will contribute to our understanding on whether these urban-wildland interfaces are population sinks for bears.
Determining the impact of relocation on nuisance Florida black bear in central Florida, 2004 - 2007
This University of Florida graduate project determined the fate of bears translocated for conflict issues and was centered on the bear population of Ocala National Forest. The study evaluated the effectiveness of removing bears from the area of human-bear conflict. The project also provided information on:
- if bears remain where released,
- return to former home ranges,
- suffer high rates of mortality, and
- get into conflicts in new areas.
This information is important as FWC bear policy allows for the relocation of bears associated with conflicts, rehabilitated orphaned cubs and bears reported in residential areas. Relocation is often perceived as a tool to reduce human-bear conflicts. Although this method has been practiced for many years, minimal data has been available to determine the fate of bears after relocation and whether such actions are effective in reducing the level of human-bear conflict. Determining the fate of relocated bears in Florida could alter the conflict management activities currently practiced in the state.
South-central Florida Black Bear Conservation, 2004 - Ongoing:
This University of Kentucky study is using VHF and GPS technology to examine the ecological and spatial characteristics of one of the last remaining, unstudied black bear populations in Florida.
Research on this population was identified as a high priority at least a decade ago. Because of its position in a quickly developing part of Florida, its linkage with North America's southeastern-most bear population, and its existence in a landscape that appears marginally suitable for black bear occupation, south central Florida embodies unique ecological and conservation challenges.
Similarly denatured and deforested habitat in Florida is devoid of the species. The findings of this study will be important in identifying essential core habitat and the critical pathways that link remnant forests and other important habitats in the region. An understanding of black bear movements and ecology in this developing region of Florida will promote continued conservation successes such as The Nature Conservancy's acquisition of the Royce Ranch at Lake Apthorpe (now an FWC Wildlife Management Area), an expanding Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, the Florida Conservation and Recreation Lands Program (CARL), and Florida Forever.
The results will also suggest the short- and long-term prospects for persistence through the examination of demographic and genetic data in a population that is likely below 200 individuals. Recommendations will then be made to promote population and landscape management that maintains this part of the black bear's range as integral to a statewide metapopulation.
- Determine habitat use and preference patterns.
- Determine the overall demographic and genetic status of the population.
- Identify key attributes of the landscape that facilitate or hinder bear movements and potential linkages with other bear populations.
- Estimate total population size and trends.
- Develop recommendations for enhancing habitat continuity, facilitating connectivity with adjacent bear populations, and promoting the long-term persistence of the south central Florida black bear population.
Demodicosis in the Ocala Population, 2000 - Ongoing:
Researchers with FWC are looking at demodicosis (mange) problem in black bears on the western edge of the Ocala National Forest. This type of mange is caused by a mite that is not contagious to people or domestic animals. The mites live in the hair follicles and severe infestations result in hair loss. In domestic animals, demodicosis is often the result of immunosuppression and we suspect that the presence of these mites may reflect some type of underlying problem in bears from this region. This research was conducted in collaboration with Black Bear Movement and Habitat Use Relative to Roads in Ocala National Forest.
Non-invasive Assessment of Black Bear Movements and Abundance Relative to U.S. 98 Within the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area, 2003 - 2005:
This study assessed the movements (numbers and locations of black bear crossings) and abundance of black bears in the study area relative to U.S. 98 within the Aucilla WMA and adjacent lands in southeastern Jefferson County. Recommendations are provided to address elevated crossing and roadkill activity concurrently for all seasons. These conservation measures may significantly decrease bear mortality, increase driver safety, and benefit multiple species while ensuring connectivity to conservation lands for the expanding population of genetically distinct black bears.
Statewide Assessment of Road Impacts on Bears in Florida, 2001 - 2005:
This FWC study assessed the impacts of transportation related deaths on bear populations by estimating the abundance and distribution of black bears in six core areas across the state. The results enable FWC to make informed decisions regarding highway management issues such as design, placement, and mitigation. The second aspect of this project was to update the distribution map of black bears throughout Florida using FWC records (calls, research, and roadkill locations), and interviews with land managers from public agencies and large private lands.
Cub survival and denning ecology of Florida black bears in Ocala National Forest, 2002 - 2004:
This University of Florida graduate project determined survival rates and specific causes of mortality of cubs in Ocala National Forest and the residential area of Lynne by using lightweight, expandable radio-collars. Information on reproductive ecology of female black bears such as litter size and age at reproduction was also collected. Because birth and early maternal care occur in dens and availability of adequate den sites can influence survival of cubs, den site characteristics were also investigated. This information is important to bear management because models of black bear populations elsewhere suggest that cub survival rate is a critical demographic variable with substantial consequences for population dynamics. However, data on survival rates, specific causes and time of mortality, and the relative importance of mortality factors for Florida black bear cubs are virtually nonexistent.
Genetic Structure and Gene Flow Among Florida Black Bear Populations, 2002 - 2004:
Building on the data collected in the Statewide Assessment of Road Impacts on Bears in Florida, the objectives this University of Florida graduate project were to characterize the genetic structure of black bears in Florida, document gene flow among populations, investigate gene flow in terms of landscape configuration, and to evaluate the effectiveness of a regional corridor in connecting the Ocala and Osceola black bear populations. The Ocala-Osceola corridor is perhaps the only functioning regional corridor in the southeastern coastal plain, yet long-term survival of this important corridor is questionable due to increasing development pressure.
Habitat Use and Genetic Relatedness of Female Black Bears in the Ocala National Forest, 2002 - 2004:
This University of Florida graduate project used habitat preference analysis and habitat modeling to identify important habitats for the black bears, as well as how these requirements may change seasonally and annually. Because of the relatively high density of black bears in the forest, there are many overlapping home ranges between bears. A comparison of habitats within the overlaps to total habitat availability may be another productive method for identifying important areas for the bears. The assumption was that habitats capable of supporting several bears are of higher quality than surrounding areas. This research also addressed how space sharing correlates to genetic relatedness. It is generally assumed that related females will be more tolerant of one another and thus permit more home range overlap. However, there is currently little genetically-based information to support this pattern.
Black Bear Movements and Habitat Use Relative to Roads in Ocala National Forest, 2000 - 2004:
Researchers with FWC investigated the movements, habitat use, and population dynamics of black bears along a portion of State Road 40 in Ocala National Forest. The Ocala black bear population is the largest in the state and has sustained 43% of the statewide roadkill since 1976. State Road 40, which is being considered for widening, bisects the national forest and contains several sites where roadkilled bears are a reoccurring problem. FWC sought to define habitat use, patterns of movement and rates and sources of adult mortality from radiocollared bears. Data concerning the locations and patterns of highway crossings were gathered from a dirt track transect adjacent to the roadway, and by documenting the locations of unsuccessful road crossings. The distribution and abundance of fall foods was also assessed with mast surveys to help explain bear movements and highway crossing frequency.
Northern St. Johns River Black Bear Assessment, 2002 - 2003:
Black bears appear to be very patchy in the northern portions of the St. Johns population. To assist in updating the bear distribution maps for this population, FWC collected bear hair from hair traps in Flagler and St. Johns counties from late fall 2002 to spring 2003. This data allowed us to more precisely determine in which areas bears were present.