FWC approves black bear plan to conserve Florida’s largest land mammal
News Release, June 27, 2012
Media contact: Diane Hirth, 850-251-2130
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
A plan for long-term conservation of the Florida black bear, whose population is estimated at more than 3,000 today, compared with as few as 300 in the 1970s, was approved today by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“The Florida bear population is thriving. That is the success story, but we still have a lot of education to do,” FWC Commission Chairman Kathy Barco said.“ Everyone loves bears, but not everyone wants them in their backyard. When people call to say, ‘Relocate this bear,’ we need to help that neighborhood learn the ways to coexist with the bear – take care of your garbage, dog food and bird feeders.”
“If we all work together to promote these protections, we can expand upon this great day today,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. Challenges addressed by the Black Bear Management Plan include:
Seven bear management units (BMUs) will be created, with each unit containing a geographically distinct bear subpopulation and a local advisory group of stakeholders interested in issues such as creating “Bear Smart” communities.
The state’s largest land mammal is a subspecies of the American black bear and had been listed as a state-threatened species since 1974. 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.
While Commissioners today passed a rule to remove the black bear from the list of state-threatened species, they also adopted a separate new rule stating it is still illegal to injure or kill a bear in this state, or possess or sell bear parts.
The public and stakeholder groups participated extensively in developing Florida’s bear management plan:
The Florida black bear is among the 62 wildlife species that soon will join the list of species, like the bald eagle, already under an FWC management plan. Florida’s new threatened species conservation model requires that management plans be created for all species that have been state-listed and that plans be updated at specified intervals.
Those management plans give citizens an active role in Florida’s efforts to conserve its diverse wildlife for future generations.