FAQs: Florida black bears and hunting

Is it legal to hunt black bears in Florida?

Yes, a regulated, limited bear harvest taking place in certain areas of the state in late October 2015 was approved at the June 2015 FWC Commission Meeting.

What is the bear population in Florida?

The best scientifically valid population estimates indicate approximately 4,300 bears statewide.

Florida Black Bear Population Estimates1

Bear Management Unit
(Subpopulation)
 YearPopulation Estimate Percent Change
West Panhandle
(Eglin)

2002


2015 

80


140

75% increase
 East Panhandle
(Apalachicola)
2002

2015 
570

1080 
89% increase

North2
(Osceola)

2002

2014 
260

 620 
138% increase

Central2
(Ocala)

2002

2014 
1,030

1,230 
19% increase
 South
(Big Cypress) 
2002

2015 
700

1,150 
64% increase
 Subtotal 2002

2014-2015 
2,640

 4,220 
60% increase
 Big Bend3
(Chassahowitzka) 
2010 30  
South Central4
(Glades/Highlands) 
2011 100  

Statewide Total
 
  4,350 60% increase

Note 1: Estimates may be adjusted as mathematical models are refined.
Note 2: Estimate was adjusted due to the mathematical model being refined.
Note 3: Low bear population densities in the Big Bend Bear Management Unit prevented use of 2014/2015 population estimate method.
Note 4: Current population methodology was used to estimate bear populations in the South Central Bear Management Unit in 2011, however, it is too soon to detect any population shifts. For most accurate results, researchers typically wait for a full generation cycle, estimated at about 8 years, between population surveys.

Is the Florida black bear considered a threatened species?

The Florida black bear is not a State-designated Threatened Species.  The Florida black bear had been listed as a State-designated Threatened species from 1974 to 2012. Successful conservation of the Florida black bear was confirmed by the FWC’s 2011 Biological Status Review, which reported the bear was no longer at a high risk of extinction.  The Commission approved a Florida Black Bear Management Plan and two rule changes to confirm the removal of the bear from the list of State-designated Threatened Species. In 2012, the bear was removed from the rule designating State Threatened Species (F.A.C. 68A-27.003) and a new rule was enacted (F.A.C. 68A-4.009) that maintains it is illegal to sell bear parts or injure or kill a bear, with certain exceptions (bear hunt, depredation permit) and that FWC will continue to comment on land use changes affecting bears.

Will hunting bears end human-bear conflicts?

No. Hunting is used to attain wildlife population objectives, such as slowing population growth rates, rather than to resolve conflict issues. Hunting is one of many tools that can be used in concert with others to meet bear management objectives. Hunting can relieve pressure on bear populations in certain areas, which could reduce the amount of bears in suburban and urban areas. However, all 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. The most successful way to reduce human-bear conflicts is to secure items that attract bears into neighborhoods.



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