Managing Florida's Bears
Fortunately, the Florida black bear population is growing. We have more bears now than at any time in the last 100 years, but our conservation efforts are not finished. There is still work to be done.
With more bears and more people in Florida, we are asking all Floridians to take action to make sure our conservation success story continues into the future. Many Floridians live, work, or play where we have bears, and it’s critical that everyone knows how to take precautions to avoid negative encounters with bears. The most important action is to make sure bears do not have a reason to spend time near people. We can accomplish this by keeping anything that might attract a bear secure on our properties.
Please visit our securing your attractants page to see all of the ways you can “stash that trash, scare that bear!”
Wildlife in North America is managed using the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The Model dictates that wildlife resources are managed by state wildlife agencies in trust of the public using science as the basis of management decisions. The Wildlife Society, a non-profit scientific and educational association focused on wildlife management, has a webpage that provides an overview of the Model.
The 2019 update to the state’s comprehensive Florida Black Bear Management Plan was approved by the FWC Commissioners at the December 2019 meeting. The plan provides a statewide framework for actions needed to ensure the long-term survival of bears and address bear management challenges.
- 2019 Florida Black Bear Management Plan
- 2019 Bear Management Plan Approved News Release
- Florida Black Bear Management Plan FAQs
The original Plan created Bear Management Units (BMU) based on the seven geographically distinct bear subpopulations in Florida. BMUs allow the flexibility for the FWC to be able to manage bears depending on the characteristics of both the bear and human populations in each area. The original Plan also called for the creation of Bear Stakeholder Groups, one for each BMU, to give people an opportunity to play an active role in efforts to manage and conserve bears in their local community.
In June 2015, the FWC Commissioners approved a limited bear hunt to take place in October 2015 in four of the seven BMUs. As outlined in the article by FWC Director Nick Wiley, bear hunting is a tool used to stabilize bear subpopulation numbers.
- International Bear Association Position Statement
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Florida Black Bear 90-day Not Substantial Finding
- Expert Panel Conclusion Statement
- Florida Residents’ Opinions on Black Bears and Black Bear Management:
FWC Executive Summary | Full Report
- Updated Review on the Feasibility of Using Fertility Control to Manage New Jersey Black Bear Populations (Tredick 2018)
Who is Bear Management?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a well trained staff of approximately 3,000 people, many of which assist with the mission of “maintaining sustainable black bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and people”.
FWC wildlife biologists are based at almost every one of our over 150 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) spread across the State. These biologists assist with bear management activities in addition to their regular activities on the WMAs. In addition to these biologists, each of the five FWC regional offices has a Wildlife Assistance Biologist who provides advice to members of the public calling with questions about wildlife, including human-bear conflicts.
The FWC also has a Bear Management Program. The Program has nine staff who are specifically trained and solely dedicated to bear management. Staff are located in key areas across the state.
There are five Area Bear Biologists who are located in the West Panhandle, East Panhandle, Central, North and South BMUs. These field biologist positions address local human-bear conflicts through direct response, outreach to the public and partnering with local municipalities.
Each Area Bear Biologist also leads their local Bear Stakeholder Group (BSG). This core group of local stakeholders meets quarterly to discuss recent updates in bear management and progress on management tasks the group has set for itself.
In addition, each Area Bear Biologist coordinates three to 10 Bear Response Contractors to help with requests for assistance from the public. Bear Response Contractors are private individuals who have been trained by FWC to recover bears hit and killed by vehicles, set and monitor traps, and advise people on ways to resolve their specific conflicts with bears.
The Bear Management Program also has three staff located in Tallahassee and one additional staff member in the Central BMU. These staff focus on statewide policies and guidelines, data management, government partnerships, and outreach.
FWC's Bear Management Program staff:
- Complete professional training in chemical immobilization of wildlife from Safe Capture
- Train other biologists on the best management practices for bear management, including trapping and handling bears, scaring bears, investigating livestock depredations, and speaking with the public about bears
- Participate in and instruct Wildlife Human Incident Response Trainings for FWC law enforcement and biologists
- Instruct Wildlife Response Trainings for local law enforcement on appropriate expectations and actions to take when first on the scene of a human-bear conflict situation
- Take courses from Management Assistance Team
- Participate in, present to, and are panel members for conferences with other wildlife professionals from across North America and the world, including:
- Eastern Black Bear Workshop
- International Association for Bear Research & Management (Management Committee Member)
- Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (Large Carnivore Working Group Member)
- The Wildlife Society and The Florida Chapter of The Wildlife Society
Bear management is guided by studies from the Bear Research Program staff.
Staff regularly publish documents related to bear management and research in Florida. Most of these articles are printed in peer-reviewed journals ensuring a robust evaluation by fellow biologists is completed prior to publication.
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