2010 and 2020 Range Mapping Project
In this project, the FWC mapped occupied range and range extent in Florida over 2 time periods then compared them to measure the differences and to identify where ranges changed most. FWC biologists objectively estimate bear ranges so that they are comparable across years. Check out the Mapping Florida Bear Range page to learn more about how FWC biologists use various data to make bear range maps. Occupied range is equal to the combined areas of what the FWC refers to as frequent and common ranges; range extent is defined as the total area where bears occur, excluding a few outliers, which the FWC refers to as occasional range.
Biologists used nearly 17,000 observations from 2001-2010 to create a map of “2010” bear range and over 39,000 observations from 2011-2020 to create a map of “2020” bear range. They found that statewide occupied bear range now covers 51% of Florida and had increased by >11% (16,523 km2) over the decade, with the largest proportional change occurring in the Big Bend Bear Management Unit (BMU; up 18%) and the Central BMU (up 17%). The statewide range extent now covers 86% of Florida and increased by >13% (19,593 km2) over the decade, with the largest proportional change occurring in the South Central BMU (51% increase) and the South BMU (31% increase). Bear ranges have clearly expanded over the past decade and both the 2010 and 2020 bear ranges were larger than any previous estimates of bear range in Florida.
These range maps help with prioritization of bear habitats for conservation, to identify areas of possible connectivity between subpopulations, and to support bear management efforts throughout bear range. Range maps are also important resources for Florida residents to better understand where bears occur in Florida.
These results were 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.