The West Panhandle Bear Management Unit includes Escambia, Holmes, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties and contains the Eglin subpopulation, named after the Eglin Air Force Base. The plan’s objectives for the West Panhandle BMU are to maintain at least 200 bears with the necessary habitat to support them, and to reduce human-bear conflicts, vehicle-related bear deaths and habitat fragmentation. In 2002, the FWC estimated 63 to 101 bears lived in the Eglin subpopulation. In 2014, the FWC will begin the multi-year process of updating subpopulation estimates. More details can be found in the bear management plan.
In October 2013, FWC held three public meetings in the West Panhandle BMU in the cities of Navarre, Fort Walton Beach, and Santa Rosa Beach. At the meetings, participants were asked to share their experiences with bears and bear management in the West Panhandle. Participants were also asked if they would like to work with the FWC on a 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. In November 2013, the West Panhanlde BSG began holding meetings to discuss local bear related issues and work collaboratively towards solutions. These 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 West Panhandle BMU can be seen below.
Each year, FWC receives thousands of calls statewide from the public about bears. The following chart shows the number of bear-related reports FWC received from the West Panhandle BMU.
The following pie charts represent the reasons people call FWC about bears in the West Panhandle BMU. The charts are in four year increments to show how the reasons have changed over time.
We look forward to working with you to conserve and manage Florida’s black bears.