The East Panhandle Bear Management Unit includes Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla, and Washington counties and contains the Apalachicola subpopulation, named after the Apalachicola National Forest. The plan’s objectives for the East Panhandle BMU are to maintain the current bear subpopulation with the necessary habitat to support them, create forested connections with the West Panhandle and Big Bend BMUs, and to reduce human-bear conflicts, vehicle-related bear deaths, and habitat fragmentation. In 2002, the FWC estimated 411 to 653 bears lived in East Panhandle subpopulation. In 2015, the FWC estimated there to be an average of 1,076 bears in the East Panhandle BMU.
In April and May 2014, FWC held six public meetings in the East Panhandle BMU in the cities of Bristol, Tallahassee, Panama City, Perry, Carrabelle, and Port St. Joe. At the meetings, participants and staff had open discussions about bears and bear management in the panhandle of Florida. Using an application process, the attendees were narrowed down to be a part of the East Panhandle Bear Stakeholder Group (BSG). BSGs are comprised of local businesses, waste service providers, law enforcement, FWC staff, residents, and government officials from cities, counties, and the state. BSG meetings will continue into the future being held several times a year.
Missed the public meetings but still want to be part of the Bear Stakeholder Group? Email us at: BearPlan@MyFWC.com
Vehicle strikes account for the majority of bear deaths in Florida statewide. The number of bears killed by vehicles, or euthanized due to vehicle injuries, documented each year in the East Panhandle BMU can be seen below.
Each year, FWC receives thousands of calls statewide from the public about bears. Over 25% of the statewide bear-related calls each year come from the East Panhandle BMU. The following chart shows the number of bear-related reports FWC received from the East Panhandle BMU.
The following pie chart represents the reasons people call FWC about bears in the East Panhandle BMU.
We look forward to working with you to conserve and manage Florida’s black bears.