2008 and 2018 Range Mapping Study
FWC biologists objectively map bear ranges so that they are comparable across years. 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 understand bear range. Check out the Florida Black Bear Range Mapping Methods page to learn more about how biologists use data to make bear range maps.
In this study, FWC mapped the range extent of bears in 2008 and in 2018 to measure the range expansion in Florida and to identify key areas of change. The maps allowed for identification of different levels of bear occurrence: Occupied and Occasional bear range. Biologists compared the 2008 and 2018 maps by measuring differences in area for each range level and then computing the percent change and percent overlap.
Biologists used over 11,000 bear observations to create a map of 2008 bear range and over 37,000 bear observations to create a map of 2018 bear range. They found that Occupied bear range increased from 40% of Florida in 2008 to 51% of Florida in 2018. Occasional range covered 27% of Florida in 2008 and increased to 34% of Florida in 2018. The two map years overlapped by 72% in Occupied range and 39% in Occasional range. Bear ranges have expanded over the past decade and both the 2008 and 2018 bear ranges estimated in this study are larger than any past estimates of bear range in Florida.
Map of comparison of Florida black bear ranges in 2008 and 2018. Ranges are overlaid and subpopulations are labeled. Each year shows two levels of occurrence: Occupied and Occasional. FWC biologists update bear range maps every few years using data from research, management, and public sightings.