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Florida black bear. Photo by FWC.

Florida black bear population continues to increase

Due to efforts of Florida, diverse stakeholders and a comprehensive management plan, Service scientists find state’s largest land mammal doing well

Today, after a robust investigation into the population and health of Florida black bears, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) found a petition to list the bear under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) did not present substantial information that listing may be warranted. This finding will be published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2017 and concludes the agency’s work on the petition.

In the 1970s, the estimated number of adult Florida black bears had fallen to only 300. Thanks to conservation efforts, that number has grown to more than 4,000 adult Florida black bears today. Not only is the population growing, there are now more black bears in the state than at any time in the last 100 years.

“This is very good news based on sound science for both the black bear and the people of Florida. State, local and industry partners are doing some incredible and really visionary conservation work across Florida, led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” said Larry Williams, state supervisor for the Service’s Ecological Services field offices in Florida. “Thanks to the cooperative efforts of all partners, Florida’s largest land mammal is thriving, and we fully expect populations to continue to grow in coming years.”

Florida black bears were designated as threatened by Florida and placed on the state’s Endangered and Threatened Species List in 1974. In June 2012, the state removed the subspecies from the list following strong population numbers and protections and conservation measures put into place, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Black Bear Management Plan.

“Using state of the art range and population modeling, the FWC recently estimated the Florida’s black bear population to be widespread and robust, containing over 4,000 adult bears statewide,” said Dr. Thomas Eason, Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “We will continue to conduct cutting-edge research and employ the best available science to properly manage this important species.”

A small black bear clinging to the trunk of a large pine tree.
Bear cub peeking around a tree. Photo by FWC.

The FWC’s proactive approach to bear management includes providing outreach and education to Florida residents; working with local governments, waste service providers, and residents to increase the availability of bear-resistant garbage containers; working with local, state, federal, non-profit and private individuals to manage wildlife habitat on the more than 10 million acres of conservation lands in Florida, and a variety of other conservation measures.

Other subspecies of black bears live throughout North America, and their overall numbers have rebounded in recent years to an estimated 800,000 bears in 37 states and Canada. In the spring of 2016, the Service delisted the Louisiana black bear from the ESA due to a similarly successful partnership between states, landowners and stakeholders.

Black bears generally are four to seven feet long. Male Florida black bears grow to 250-350 pounds, and adult females weigh 130-180 pounds. In Florida, they live in cypress and mangroves swamps, cabbage palm forests, pine flatwoods, mixed hardwood pine forests, oak scrub and pine plantations.

The Service works with public and private partners to proactively conserve at-risk fish, wildlife and plants, keep working lands working, and prevent the need to protect them under the ESA. The Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, 15 southeastern states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, federal agencies and other partners are identifying and conserving imperiled wildlife before they require federal protections.

In the past five years, the Service has determined that 98 species of fish, wildlife and plants don’t require the ESA’s protection due to proactive efforts of the Service and stakeholders. Another 13 have seen their status improved from endangered to threatened, or like the Louisiana black bear, have been removed from the ESA altogether because they are recovered.

Read the frequently asked questions.


Chuck Underwood, USFWS, 904-731-3332

Phil Kloer, USFWS, 404-679-7299

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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