Statewide Habitat Assessment (2018-2021)
Although Florida’s black bear population is increasing both in abundance and range, historical losses caused by human land-use changes continue to limit and fragment bear habitat. The goal of the FWC’s Florida Black Bear Management Plan is to maintain sustainable populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and people. To meet this goal, biologists estimated the amount and distribution of bear habitat in Florida and studied its characteristics, including how much of bear habitat is currently occupied and identifying the most likely movement corridors between habitat patches.
By combining data from across the state, biologists estimated 17,646 mi2 of high-quality bear habitat throughout Florida. When compared to conservation lands from 2021, 46% of this estimated bear habitat was protected by either easements or public ownership. Biologists also compared areas of bear habitat to projected human development and sea level rise to predict areas most affected by those potential future threats to bear habitat.
Not all identified bear habitat is occupied by bears. When biologists compared this habitat map to the 2019 map of bear range, they found that 39% of the habitat was in Frequent bear range, 24% was in Common bear range, 28% was in Occasional bear range, and 9% was in Rare bear range. Bears may also use some areas that were not identified as bear habitat, particularly areas that are near or between high quality habitat patches or areas that provide access to trash or other supplemental food sources.
Biologists also investigated how connected the largest bear habitat patches are and where habitat linkages, or corridors, exist. Researchers studied the characteristics of corridors to determine which barriers are most likely to inhibit bear movements along the corridors and to identify where future range expansion is most likely to occur.