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Statewide Abundance 2023-2028

A map showing areas of frequent black bear occurrence in the state of Florida, used to label the 6 subpopulations used in this project. These are: Eglin in the western panhandle, Apalachicola in the eastern panhandle, Osceola in northern Florida adjacent to the Georgia border, Ocala in central Florida, Highlands/Glades in south-central Florida, and Big Cypress in southwest Florida.

Figure 1

Between 2023 and about 2028, the FWC plans to update the estimates of bear abundance and density in the 6 larger subpopulations. One subpopulation will be sampled each year until all have been assessed; these include Apalachicola, Big Cypress, Eglin, Highlands/Glades, Osceola, and Ocala subpopulations (Figure 1). Read more about how researchers use hair corrals to estimate bear abundance.

One objective of both the 2012 and 2019 Florida Black Bear Management Plans is to update abundance estimates about every 10 years. The first study in Florida to estimate bear abundance using genotyped hair and mark-recapture methods was conducted from 2001-2003 and focused on the Apalachicola, Big Cypress, Eglin, Ocala, St. Johns, and Osceola bear subpopulations (the St. Johns is now considered part of the Ocala subpopulation). Abundance studies were also conducted in 2009-2010 and 2010-2012 to assess the smaller Chassahowitzka and Highlands/Glades subpopulations, respectively. Abundance estimates for the larger subpopulations were updated in 2014-2015; the estimate for Chassahowitzka was updated in 2020 along with 2 other areas of the Big Bend.

Bear hair samples from 2003 were also used to investigate genetic diversity and relatedness among all 8 genetic groups in Florida (the 6 original subpopulations listed above and Chassahowitzka, plus bears around Aucilla WMA that are part of the Apalachicola subpopulation).  This study found that bears in the St. Johns and Ocala subpopulations were genetically indistinguishable, which is the reason they were combined. The 2019 Florida Black Bear Management Plan also seeks to improve genetic connectivity and diversity among Florida’s bear subpopulations and we will use hair samples collected from 2023-2028 to update the estimates of genetic diversity.