The Florida Black Bear
The chance to photograph a Florida Black Bear in its natural habitat (at a safe distance between you and the bear) is such an unbelievable experience and one that should be treasured.
I have personally seen Florida Black Bears while I was out photographing, but never quick enough to pop out of the car and snap some photos.
During a Florida Master Naturalist Program – Special Topic: Wildlife Monitoring I attended in September, we visited an active bear research site at Chassahowitzka WMA. This particular site had been staged to collect hair samples.
Even though we didn’t see evidence of bear activity in that staging area, it was still a great experience to see the monitoring area and to understand the importance of this research.
There’s so much that involves monitoring Florida black bears. It’s years and years of research and collecting data. You can learn more here: FWC- Black Bear Research
Some tidbits about the Florida Black Bear:
- The female bear home range is around 50 miles, as the males can exceed over 200 miles.
- They can smell food from a mile away.
- They can spend up to 20 hours a day eating to get prepared for the winter season.
- A cub’s survival rate from birth to a little over a year, depends on their mother’s protection from many predators, including other black bears.
- They like to play and climb trees.
Bears will do what bears do- they roam, and they eat. Most of their diet consists of nuts, berries, and other vegetation; randomly, they will eat bird eggs or even alligators eggs. They will also eat carrion (deceased mammals).
Well-covered areas like swamps, oak hammocks, and scrub with dense saw palmettos and towering pines are preferred habitats for the bears.
To contribute to a healthy diet, saw palmetto berries are on their top food list. Unfortunately, thousands of pounds of saw palmetto berries are illegally harvested every year.
The 2019 Florida Black Bear Management Plan (Draft) published by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is an excellent resource to learn more about the status of Florida’s Black Bear population and the ongoing efforts to keep their population as healthy and viable as possible.
As there is a push for community outreach and education about living with bears, if all do our part, which is very simple, there can be harmony.
Long ago, Florida was thriving and surrounded by incredible natural habitats, and wildlife was free and sustainable. I firmly believe that many people have realized that Florida’s population is becoming a primary concern for Florida’s Black bear and many other wildlife species.
From 2000 – 2018, over 3,000 Florida Black bears were killed by vehicles or had to be euthanized due to vehicle-related injuries. The highest in one year was in 2012, with 286 deaths.
Florida is Black Bear territory. Their well-being and existence are essential for the health of Florida’s ecosystems. We all have to be mindful of them.