Florida black bear
|Florida black bear|
|A Florida black bear in Ocala National Forest|
|Subspecies:||U. a. floridanus|
|Ursus americanus floridanus
The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is a subspecies of the American black bear that has historically ranged throughout most of Florida and southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. The large black-furred bears live mainly in forested areas and have seen recent habitat reduction throughout the state. On June 27, 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) delisted the Florida Black Bear from the state threatened species list. Successful conservation of the Florida black bear was confirmed by the FWC’s 2011 Biological Status Review, which reported the bear to be no longer at high risk of extinction. In addition to delisting the Florida Black Bear from the list of threatened species rules were adopted "stating it is still illegal to injure or kill a bear in this state, or possess or sell bear parts."  On August 3, 2015, FWC began selling Special-Use permits for the hunting season beginning on October 23, 2015.
Florida black bears are typically large-bodied with shiny black fur, a light brown nose and a short stubby tail. A white chest patch is also common on many but not all the bears. It is currently Florida's largest terrestrial mammal with an average male weight of 300 pounds (140 kg) and a few have grown above 500 pounds (230 kg). Females generally weigh less and on average are about 198 pounds (90 kg). Average adults have a length of between 4 feet (120 cm) and 6 feet (180 cm), and they also stand between 2.5 feet (76 cm) and 3.5 feet (110 cm) high at the shoulder.
Florida black bears are mainly solitary, except when in groups or pairings during mating season. Although they are solitary mammals, in general, most are not territorial, and typically do not defend their range from other bears. Black bears have good eyesight, acute hearing and an excellent sense of smell .
Florida black bears live mainly in forested habitats, and are common in sand-pine scrub, oak scrub, upland hardwood forests and forested wetlands. Black Bears in Southern Florida are the only subspecies to live in a Sub-Tropical region. To a lesser extent it also inhabits dry prairie and tropical hammock.
Before Florida was settled by Europeans, Florida black bears occupied all of the Florida mainland, and even many of the Florida Keys, with a population around 12,000. The current range is much more sporadic with isolated groups living mainly in protected areas in Florida, Southern Alabama, Southern Georgia and Southern Mississippi. Most major populations of Florida black bears live in protected areas. These include Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. A study of the Okefenokee-Osceola population found over 500 bears in two study areas. The current bear population in Florida is estimated at more than 3,000 bears.
Habitat loss is greatly affecting Florida Black Bear populations. Nearly 20 acres (81,000 m2) of wildlife habitat are lost to new development every hour in Florida. Bears being injured or killed by motorists is another threat to regional populations. Since 1976 there have been more than 1,356 documented cases of bears being killed in Florida. Over 100 bears are killed on Florida roadways each year, and in 2002 a record 132 deaths occurred. That makes roadkill the number one cause of bear death in the state, with 89.5% of bear deaths since 1994 being attributed to such crashes. The Florida State Legislature outlawed the hunting of the Florida black bear in 1994.
Discouraging Bears from Human Occupied Areas
Bear sightings have been increasing in Florida  in recent years the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Center  has posted a number of actions that can be taken to discourage bears from encroaching into human occupied areas. Most importantly, don't allow access to food sources. Keep garbage cans in the garage or put locks on the lids. Don't keep pet foods out doors and don't use feeders. Electric fences are a good way to secure a perimeter. Keep ripe fruit and garden vegetables picked. Clean outdoor grills. Motion activated alarms are effective in scaring bears away.
- "FWC approves black bear plan to conserve Florida’s largest land mammal". FWC. June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- "Special-Use Bear Permit". FWC. August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
- "Florida Black Bear Fact Sheet" (PDF). U.S. Forest Service. August 2009. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
- Scott, Chris (2004). Endangered and Threatened Animals of Florida and Their Habitats. University of Texas. Press. ISBN 0-292-70529-8.
- Anthony, H. E. (2005). Field Book of North American Mammals. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4179-8949-1.
- "Behavior & Senses". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
- "Florida Black Bear Background and Recovery". Defenders of Wildlife. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
- "Black Bear Distribution Map". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
- "FWC Approves Black Bear Plan to Conserve Florida’s Largest Land Mammal". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved 7 July 2012.