Florida Black Bear: Ursus americanus floridanus
Genus/Species: Ursus americanus
Subspecies: Ursus americanus floridanus
Common Name: Florida black bear
Federal Status: Not Listed
FL Status: Not listed
FNAI Ranks: G5T2/S2 (Globally: Demonstrably Secure, Sub sp. Imperiled/ State: Imperiled)
IUCN Status: Not ranked
The Florida black bear is a large, strong mammal that can reach a length of five feet (1.5 meters) (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1995). Males normally weigh between 250-350 pounds (113.4-158.8 kilograms), while females normally weigh between 130-180 pounds (59-81.6 kilograms). Florida black bears have black hair on their entire body, except for the muzzle which is tan colored. Like all bears, they have round ears, five-toed feet, short tails, and large canine teeth. Males have wide, wedge-shaped faces, while the females have slender faces. Although they are large creatures, black bears can run up to 30 miles per hour (48.3 kilometers per hour).
The Florida black bear is an omnivore and its diet primarily consists of insects, fleshy fruits, nuts, and food they find in human habitation such as livestock feed and garbage. This species goes through periods of feasting and fasting. Florida black bears feed extensively in the fall, as sources of food are extremely limited in the winter.
Florida black bears breed from June to July. Females have delayed implantation as eggs do not implant until November or early December. The total gestation period is 8-12 weeks. Cubs are born in January or February in litters of two to four offspring (Maehr and Wooding 1992, Dobey et al. 2005, Garrison et al. 2007). Bear cubs are very small at birth (the size of a small squirrel), with a fine coat of hair. Cubs are also born with their eyes closed. Black bear cubs will stay with their mother until the summer of their second year. During the second summer, juveniles will leave their mother and the adult female will be ready to breed again. Female yearlings usually establish their home range close to their mothers, while males develop home ranges away from their mother. Florida black bear females become sexually mature between three and four years of age (Garrison 2004).
Habitat and Distribution
Florida black bears inhabit a variety of forested communities (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001). Wetlands are important for daytime cover while bayheads are important for den covering. Black bear distribution is divided into six core areas and the surrounding lands – Eglin Air Force Base, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest, Ocala National Forest, St. Johns River watershed, and Big Cypress National Park; and two remnant areas – Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge and Glades/Highland counties. Because black bears travel for food sources and to establish new home ranges, they can be found all over Florida, even well outside of these core areas and up into Georgia.
Black bears in Florida face threats that vary in their significance and intensity. The two primary threats to bears are negative interactions with people, and habitat loss and fragmentation. Human-caused mortality and incompatible habitat management also are important concerns for bear management. While a wide range of diseases and parasites have been documented in bears, none are known to pose a significant threat to the Florida black bear population.
Conservation and Management
A biological status review of the Florida black bear was completed in fall 2010 and found that bear populations in Florida have increased to the point that they no longer qualify for listing. Due to these results, FWC recommended that the Florida black bear be removed from Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species List. The recommendation was presented to the Commission for consideration at the June 2012 meeting where a management plan and the species' subsequent removal from Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species List was approved. Effective August 23, 2012, the Florida black bear is no longer listed in Florida.
Biological Status Review (BSR)
Supplemental Information for the BSR
Florida Black Bear Management Plan
Rules relating to Florida black bears:
- Rule 68A-4.001 (3): It is prohibited to place food or garbage out to intentionally attract bears.
- 68A-12.004 (12): The sale or purchase of any bear carcass or part thereof is prohibited (including taxidermy mounts) unless legally acquired and has a tag bearing the name and address of the possessor and the date when and the specific place where it was taken and acquired.
- 68A-4.009: Florida Black Bear Conservation. (1) No person shall take (as that term is defined in Rule 68A-1.004, F.A.C.), possess, injure, shoot, wound, trap, collect, or sell Florida black bears (Ursus americanus floridanus) or their parts or to attempt to engage in such conduct except as authorized by Commission rule or by permit from the Commission. (2) The Commission will issue permits authorizing intentional take of bears when it determines such authorization furthers scientific or conservation purposes which will benefit the survival potential of the species. For purposes of this rule, a scientific or conservation purpose shall mean activities that further the conservation or survival of the species, including: (a) Collection of scientific data needed for conservation or management of the species; and (b) Removing bears from situations that constitute a human safety risk or a risk to the well being of the bear. (3) The Commission will provide technical assistance to land owners and comments to permitting agencies in order to minimize and avoid potential negative human-bear interactions or impacts of land modifications on the conservation and management of black bears. The Commission will base its comments and recommendations on the goals and objectives of the approved Florida Black Bear Management Plan.
Other Informative Links
American Zoo & Aquarium Association's Bear Advisory Group
Bears of British Columbia
FWC Black Bear Curriculum Guide
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - American Black Bear
Printable version of this page
Dobey, S., D.V. Masters, B.K. Scheick, J.D. Clark, M.R. Pelton, and M.E. Sunquist. 2005. Ecology of Florida black bears in the Okefenokee-Osceola Ecosystem. Wildlife Monographs 158.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory. 2001. Field guide to the rare animals of Florida. http://www.fnai.org/FieldGuide/pdf/Ursus_americanus_floridanus.PDF
Garrison, E.P., J.W. McCown, and M.K. Oli. 2007. Reproductive ecology and cub survival of Florida black bears. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:720-727.
Garrison, E.P. 2004. Reproductive ecology, cub survival, and denning ecology of the Florida black bear. Thesis. University of Florida. Gainesville, Florida.
Maehr, D.S. and J.B. Wooding 1992. Florida black bear Ursus americanus floridanus. Pages 265-275 in S.R. Humphrey (ed.), Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. I. Mammals. University Press of Florida. Gainesville, Florida.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (1995). American Black Bear. Retrieved August 8, 2011, from Wildlife Biologue: /media/437144/USFWSblackbear.pdf
Image Credit FWC