Changes To Florida's Bear Mgmt Plan

Florida Fish & Wildlife Division, Bear Hunting Magazine

The Florida black bear population has increased from as low as 300 in the 1970s to more than 3,000 bears today, and the plan that will guide continued conservation of this species has been revised by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

The revised draft Black Bear Management Plan is available online at and is ready for public input. It incorporates previous public feedback on the nearly 200-page draft plan released last November.

About 2,500 public comments were received on the original draft plan, which establishes for the first time a statewide framework to manage Florida black bears to ensure they are never again at high risk of extinction. Public workshops on the draft plan were held in four cities, in addition to the opportunity for people to comment online and by email or regular mail.

Last February, FWC Commissioners directed staff to further refine and revise the draft plan and give careful consideration to stakeholder and public input. At their upcoming June meeting, the Commissioners are scheduled to consider approval of the revised draft plan.

Once the plan receives final approval, the black bear will no longer be on the state's list of threatened species. The bear currently does not meet the criteria of being at high risk of extinction, based on a 2011 Biological Status Review.

In June, the Commission also will consider a new FWC rule making it unlawful to injure or kill bears, protections similar to the ones granted to bears as a threatened species. The proposed rule additionally affirms the FWC will work with landowners and regulating agencies to guide future land use to be compatible with objectives of the bear plan.

Seven black bear management units (BMUs) would be created under the plan to involve local citizens and stakeholder groups in the management of specific bear populations and habitats.

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