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Current Florida Black Bear Range

The historical range of the Florida black bear likely comprised all of mainland Florida and the upper Florida Keys, but bears experienced a severe reduction in range in Florida through the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, bear range has clearly increased in recent decades, alongside bear abundance.

Early range maps of bears in Florida were based on expert opinions. Today, biologists with the FWC combine sightings from the public and wildlife professionals with systematic sampling from researchers and bear occurrence data collected by managers to produce objective, data-driven range maps for bears. Check out the Mapping Florida Bear Range page to learn more about how FWC biologists use various data to make bear range maps.

For the 2020 range map, biologists collected over 39,000 bear observations from all 67 Florida counties to create a map of current bear range that includes 4 categories of bear occurrence: frequent, common, occasional, and Rare. The frequent occurrence area was 29% of Florida at 40,661 km2 (15,700 mi2), common occurrence was 22% at 34,108 km2 (13,170 mi2), occasional occurrence was 35% at 51,420 km2 (19,853 mi2) and rare occurrence was 13% of Florida at 19,876 km2 (7,674 mi2). All ranges include the area of surface lakes and waters. Because the FWC considers occupied bear range to include both frequent and common range, bears now occupy 51% of Florida, or 74,769 km2 (28,870 mi2).

This map was published in Scheick, B. K., M. A. Barrett, and D. Doran-Myers. 2023. Change in black bear range and distribution in Florida using two decadal datasets from 2001–2020. Journal of Wildlife Management 87(4):e22394.

Two maps side by side that show bear range in Florida and the seven bear subpopulations: Eglin in western panhandle, Apalachicola in eastern panhandle, Osceola in northern peninsula along Georgia border, Chassahowitzka on gulf coast in big bend area, Ocala in central peninsula, Highlands/Glades in south central peninsula, and Big Cypress in southwestern Florida. Occasional range includes most of the state, with rare occurrences mainly in southeastern coast and extreme south.

Left: Map of 2020 Florida black bear range with four levels of occurrence (frequent, common, occasional, and rare). The seven bear subpopulations are labeled. FWC biologists update this map at least once every decade using data from research, management, and public sightings. Right: Map of 2020 Florida black bear range showing occupied bear range, which is a combination of the areas from frequent and common occurrences (modified from the Contemporary occupied range from Figure 1 of the publication). The seven bear subpopulations are labeled. Bears now occupy 51% of the state.