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Big Bend Abundance 2020

bear hair caught on wire

In the Big Bend BMU, cameras captured bears coming to bait within hair corrals, giving researchers not only genetic material that is used to identify individuals, but also a look at the bears’ physical condition and behavior.

The Chassahowitzka black bear subpopulation, within the Big Bend Bear Management Unit (BMU), is the most genetically isolated and has the smallest estimated abundance of the seven bear subpopulations in Florida. Although bear numbers in Florida are generally increasing, the estimate of abundance for the Chassahowitzka subpopulation based on 2010 data remained low. Reported occurrences in the rest of the Big Bend BMU suggest that bear abundance in the BMU remains below the objective of the 2019 Florida Black Bear Management Plan of at least 200 adults.

In summer 2020, FWC biologists surveyed the Chassahowitzka black bear subpopulation and other portions of the Big Bend BMU that were likely to have resident bears. This survey will allow researchers to estimate abundance and genetic diversity within the BMU.

The FWC has released orphaned bear cubs into the Big Bend BMU for the past decade in an effort to increase the number of bears and the genetic diversity within the BMU since it was last surveyed. With this survey, researchers are hoping to identify previously released bears to help FWC better understand bear survival after release.

A systematic grid of hair corrals deployed in the BMU collected bear hair samples to identify individuals. Read more about how researchers use hair corrals to estimate bear abundance. Results from this study are pending. By comparing results to past research, biologists will measure trends in abundance and genetic diversity in Florida’s smallest bear subpopulation. By extending hair corrals to new areas within the BMU, they will estimate population size in those areas for the first time and gather evidence for the success of past bear translocations.

Big Bend BMU

In the Big Bend BMU, cameras captured bears coming to bait within hair corrals, giving researchers not only genetic material that is used to identify individuals, but also a look at the bears’ physical condition and behavior.