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Big Cypress Demographics

bear with ear tags

F105, a newly tagged and collared female bear from the Big Cypress subpopulation, recovers from immobilization in Picayune Strand State Forest.

FWC researchers are studying bears in the Big Cypress subpopulation from 2021-2026. The goal of this research is to monitor survival and reproductive rates and use these rates to estimate the growth of the Big Cypress bear subpopulation. To obtain data, researchers are capturing bears on public and private lands in Southwest Florida. All captured bears receive unique combinations of colored ear tags which allow researchers to identify individual bears by sight. Female bears are fitted with a tracking collar that records movements. Collars allow researchers to locate bear dens in the winter and estimate reproduction. Bear cubs may be given a transmitter to monitor their survival as well. See Tracking Bears to learn more about how FWC biologists track and use data from bears.

Monitoring adult and cub bear survival, as well as reproduction of female bears, provides valuable data that researchers will use to estimate the growth of the Big Cypress subpopulation. These characteristics of the subpopulation have not been studied since the 1990s, when diets, home ranges, survival, and reproductive rates were measured. Results from the current project will be compared to the 1990s results. Results will also be compared to other Florida bear subpopulations. Big Cypress demographics research is important to understanding the dynamics of this bear subpopulation, the most southerly bears in the United States.

Fakahatchee Mom & Cub

A mother bear and her cub cool off in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in the Big Cypress subpopulation. Video captured by Jay Staton Photography.