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Camp Blanding 2011-2013

bear laying in woods

As Florida black bears expand their range in the state, they have been recolonizing some areas of their historical range that contain adequate habitat. In North-Central Florida, bears recolonized Camp Blanding Joint Training Center and surrounding private lands, probably in the 1990s. Bear habitat in this area is more heavily fragmented than in larger public lands, such as national forests, due to roads and other human land-uses. Biologists tracked 16 bears (6 females, 10 males) from 2011-2013 to investigate bear movement patterns, habitat use, and features of habitat. See Tracking Bears to learn more about how FWC biologists track and use movement data from bears.

This study provided various insights about bears living in recolonized, fragmented, human-dominated habitat. Bears had slightly larger individual home ranges than bears in nearby, less fragmented habitat of Ocala National Forest. Bears generally avoided urban areas and instead used dense, wet forested areas where they had plenty of cover and food. Roads were a barrier to bear movement, especially for females. Bears moved slowly in natural habitats, indicating foraging and sleeping, then moved quickly through human-dominated areas.

Research in Camp Blanding reinforced the importance of forested wetlands for Florida bears, supporting the prioritization of these habitats for bear conservation. Preservation of wetlands, creeks, and other water systems that link bear habitat in Florida help sustain bears in areas dominated by people. Small bear populations such as the one in Camp Blanding are important to maintain the corridor between the larger neighboring subpopulations. As bear range expands into new areas of Florida, understanding how bears use such human-dominated landscapes is central to improving the connectivity and long-term sustainability of bear subpopulations and mitigating human-bear conflict.

Results of this study were published in the following: