North Florida Ecological Services Office
Southeast Region

Fact Sheet for the re-exam of FWS decision related to 1998 Florida Black Bear Petition to list


The Florida Black Bear occurred historically in all of Florida, southern Georgia, and southern Alabama. The bear still occurs in all three states, but in reduced numbers. Core populations are generally confined to less accessible swamp and forest areas on public conservation lands and adjacent private lands. An estimated 1,600-3,000 bears remain. The main Georgia and Florida populations are secure, but the small remaining Alabama population is likely to be gone in the near future.

In 1990, a Florida resident petitioned the Service to list the Florida black bear under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA).

In December 1998, the Service issued its 12-month finding that listing the Florida black bear was not warranted because healthy bear populations occur in secure habitat in four areas: Apalachicola National Forest and adjacent lands, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge–Osceola National Forest and adjacent lands, Ocala National Forest and adjacent lands, and Big Cypress National Preserve and adjacent lands. The Service removed the species from candidate status at that time.

The Defenders of Wildlife, the Fund for Animals, and the Sierra Club challenged the Service’s 1998 finding in their 1999 lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for D.C.


In December 2001, the U.S. District Court for D.C. upheld most aspects of the Service’s original 1998 finding, but directed the Service to reexamine and clarify its previous decision regarding "inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms."


Pursuant to the Court’s order, the Service has reexamined the regulatory mechanisms in place at the time of the 1998 finding. The Service has determined that regulatory mechanisms established by Federal and State laws, regulations and policies were and continue to be adequate. As a result, the Florida black bear does not require listing under the ESA. The notice of this action was published in the Federal Register on January 14, 2004.


The Federal Register notice, as well as this fact sheet, frequently asked questions, and other related documents are available online at

If you have specific questions or need special assistance, please contact the North Florida Field Office at 904-731-3332.

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Last updated: November 20, 2019