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What is the Florida Black Bear Management Plan?

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.

Why was the Plan created?

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.

What is the goal of the Bear Management Plan?

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.

What are the objectives of the Plan?

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.

When did the FWC start drafting the Plan?

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.

Who wrote the original Plan?

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.

Did the public have a chance to review and comment on the original Plan?

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.

Was the original Plan scheduled to be updated/reviewed?

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.

Why is the FWC reviewing and updating the 2012 Plan now?

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.

Who was involved in updating the Plan?

An internal team of FWC staff updated the Plan. The Team will review feedback from involve stakeholders, partner organizations, and the public before bringing it to the FWC Commissioners for their planned review in December 2019.

Will the public be able to review and comment on the updated Plan?

The FWC posted the updated Plan on MyFWC.com/Bear for public review. The public can comment on the plan using the online survey, also located on MyFWC.com/Bear.  In addition, the FWC is holding meetings with the local Bear Stakeholder Groups, the Statewide Bear Technical Assistance Group, and will host two public webinars to share major updates on the Plan and answer questions. Public feedback on the Plan begins on October 8 and closes on November 6. The FWC will summarize public feedback and plan to present it to the FWC Commissioners at the December 2019 meeting.

How can I provide my feedback on the draft Plan?

The FWC welcomes public comment and invites people to provide their feedback on Plan updates by completing an online survey between October 8 and November 6. A link to the survey can be found at MyFWC.com/Bear

The public is also invited to attend one of the two webinars which are scheduled for Thursday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 29. Both will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern time) and will include the same materials and information.

To participate in a webinar, go to http://meetingone.adobeconnect.com/fwc

Enter your name, click ‘Enter Room’, then select ‘Open in Browser’.

You will then be asked how you want to listen to the presentation and provided multiple options. You will be able to view the presentation and submit questions to the FWC staff about the Plan. For those who do not have access to a computer, you can listen to the presentation by calling 1-800-832-0736 and dialing 1781354.

How do I know what draft changes have been made in the Plan?

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 current 2012 Florida Black Bear Management Plan is available for direct comparison at https://myfwc.com/media/1918/bear-management-plan.pdf. In addition, a document summarizing the major changes can be found at MyFWC.com/Bear.

Why was staff given until 2019 to provide Commissioners with the updated Plan?

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 is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that all content is reviewed thoroughly to present the most current and applicable information in the updated Plan. As with the original Plan, the updated Plan will be reviewed by partner and stakeholder groups, as well as the public, before it is provided to the FWC Commissioners for their review in December 2019.

Will the goal or objectives of the original Plan change in the updated version?

The original Plan goal and objectives are sound and were not substantially altered during the update. Most of the work that is being done on the updated Plan involves incorporating additional information, rather than significantly changing fundamental elements like the goal or objectives.

What are some examples of new research and management information that will be added to the updated Plan?

  • 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.

Does the Plan address individual responsibility?

Bear at hair snare research site

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.

What is the desired outcome for bears in Florida as a result of the Plan? 

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.

Does the updated Plan propose re-opening the bear hunting season?

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.

If Commissioners approve the updated Plan, will the bear hunting season be re-opened?

Approval of the updated Plan does not constitute re-opening a bear hunting season. The FWC Commissioner review of the updated Plan is a separate issue from consideration of re-opening the bear hunting season.

When will the updated Plan come before the Commission?

The updated Plan is anticipated to go before the FWC Commissioners for their review in December 2019.

How long will it be until the updated Plan is reviewed again?

As with the original Plan, the FWC designed the updated Plan to operate over a 10-year timeframe from the time of its approval. If the Plan is approved in 2019, for example, it would be scheduled to be reviewed and updated in 2028.