The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) developed the Florida Black Bear Management Plan (Plan) to provide a statewide framework for conserving Florida black bears. This Plan is designed to be updated every 10 years.
The Plan sets a strategy in place to address actions needed to ensure the long-term survival of bears and address the challenges of bear management. The Plan provides a foundation for policies and actions that will balance the needs of bears and people.
The goal of the Plan is to maintain sustainable black bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and people.
The Plan has four main objectives:
- Manage for a sustainable bear population statewide,
- Conserve enough suitable habitat to support bear subpopulations where they currently exist and promote connectivity between those subpopulations,
- Increase public understanding of bears, support for bear conservation and a willingness to coexist with bears, and
- Reduce human-bear conflicts.
The FWC started drafting the original Plan in 2007. After working with many staff, partners, and stakeholder groups, staff presented the Plan to FWC Commissioners, who approved it in June 2012. Staff began work on updating the Plan in October 2017 with the goal of presenting it for Commissioner review in late 2019.
The original Plan was written by a team of FWC staff working with the Statewide Bear Technical Assistance Group (TAG), which consisted of representatives from over 20 different public and private organizations. Originally formed in May 2007, the team worked with the TAG on multiple drafts of the Plan and provided an updated draft for public comment before bringing it to the FWC Commissioners, who approved the Plan in 2012.
Yes. The FWC collected comments on the original Plan via mail, email, online, and in stakeholder group and public meetings. Staff used this feedback to revise the original Plan and provide it to the FWC Commissioners, who approved it on June 27, 2012.
Yes. The FWC designed the original Plan to operate over a 10-year timeframe from the time of its approval. The plan was therefore scheduled to be reviewed and updated in 2021. At their April 2017 meeting, the FWC Commissioners asked staff to update the original plan in 2019 instead of waiting until 2021.
Since the initial plan was approved in 2012, the FWC has been working on and completed several key research projects and management actions that have added to our knowledge about bears and how we can best manage them. In April 2017, the FWC Commissioners requested that staff move up the original review timeline from 2021 to 2019 to incorporate all the new information, as well as information about population management options, including regulated hunting.
An internal team of FWC staff updated the Plan. The Team reviewed feedback from stakeholders, partner organizations, and the public before bringing it to the FWC Commissioners for their approval on December 11, 2019.
The FWC posted the updated draft Plan on MyFWC.com/Bear for public review. The public provided more than 3,000 comments on the plan. The FWC also held two public webinars (October 24 and October 29), where more than 100 people participated online or over the phone. In addition to the public, the FWC met directly with stakeholder groups representing a variety of perspectives. During the week of October 21, the FWC met with 61 members of the seven Bear Stakeholder Groups, and on October 28, met with 19 members of the Statewide Bear Technical Assistance Group to solicit additional feedback. The FWC also received a total of 346 emails, calls, or letters during the open comment period (October 7 to November 6, 2019).
The original Plan goal and objectives are sound and were not substantially altered during the update. Most of the work done on the updated Plan involved incorporating additional information, rather than significantly changing fundamental elements like the goal or objectives. The 2012 Florida Black Bear Management Plan is available for direct comparison. In addition, a document summarizing the major changes is available. As a result of the 30-day public comment period staff made 146 edits to the Plan, which were mostly grammatical or to clarify points.
The original Plan was created over a 5-year period by numerous FWC staff, who incorporated feedback from partner and stakeholder groups, as well as members of the public, to create a comprehensive 200+ page document. The FWC took the appropriate steps to ensure that all content was reviewed thoroughly to present the most current and applicable information in the updated Plan. As with the original Plan, the updated Plan was reviewed by partner and stakeholder groups, as well as the public, before it was provided to the FWC Commissioners for their approval on December 11, 2019.
The original Plan goal and objectives are sound and were not substantially altered during the update. Most of the work done on the updated Plan involved incorporating additional information, rather than significantly changing fundamental elements like the goal or objectives.
- Population abundance estimates published in 2017
- Range estimate updated in 2019
- Feeding rule and associated penalties changed in 2015
- Public opinion survey completed in 2016
- Efforts to create BearWise communities, including substantial increases in incentive funding and community involvement from 2012 to 2019.
The plan addresses the need for continuing education so people can understand what steps they should take to reduce human-bear conflicts. People who know that bears are attracted to garbage, pet food, and birdseed and take action to prevent bear access to those food sources will be critical to the success of bear conservation efforts.
Implementation of the plan should increase the chances that healthy, self-sustaining, and genetically diverse bear populations will thrive in Florida and human-bear conflicts will be minimized.
The updated Plan does not propose re-opening the bear hunting season. The updated Plan acknowledges that, as both the human and bear populations continue to increase in Florida, at some point the number of bears will need to be addressed in some way. Several possible options on how to manage the bear population were explored in the updated Plan, including contracted shooting/trapping programs, fertility control, habitat manipulation, regulated hunting and translocation. Approval of the updated Plan does not constitute re-opening a bear hunting season. While there was no proposal to hunt at the December 2019 Commission meeting, we can’t predict what a future Commission or Chairman might decide to do.
As with the original Plan, the FWC designed the updated Plan to operate over a 10-year timeframe from the time of its approval. With the December 12, 2019 approval, it would be scheduled to be reviewed and updated in 2028.