The Florida Black Bear

Though bears usually keep to themselves, they do sometimes come in contact with humans, especially when food is involved (Guiliano et al. 2014). While spotting a Florida black bear in the wild can be a beautiful experience, limiting human-bear encounters in suburban settings is vital to the safety of both bears and humans alike.

Bear Facts (Guiliano et al. 2014)

  • The Florida black bear is the only species of bear native to Florida.
  • There are approximately 3000 Florida black bears in the state.
  • Most black bears are completely black, though some may have lighter coloring on their muzzles or chests.
  • Adult male bears usually weigh between 250 and 450 pounds. Females range between 125 and 250 pounds. The largest bear ever documented in Florida weighed 760 pounds! (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2015a).
  • Black bears are omnivorous. 80% of their diet is plant-based, and the rest is made up of insects and animals.
  • Black bears have well-developed senses of sight, hearing, and smell—they can smell something more than a mile away!

Bear Safety

Always in search of a meal, bears are attracted to human food sources such as garbage, pet food, and birdfeeders. Bears will overcome their natural fear of people to get access to these easy calories. Once a bear has gotten used to getting food from trashcans or porches, they are less likely to return to the wild, even when the food source is removed (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 2015b).

According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, “a fed bear is a dead bear” (2015b). When bears venture into human habitats, they are more likely to be injured or killed. To keep bears in their natural habitat and off your property, prevent them from accessing food sources, such as barbeque grills, garbage cans, pet food, gardens, and hanging wildlife feeders (Annis, Sunquist, and Guiliano 2011). See Living with the Florida Black Bear: A Homeowner’s Guide to Nuisance Bear Prevention and Living with Florida Black Bears for more on securing bear attractants and how to be safe if do encounter a bear.

References

Annis, Kimberly M., Melvin E. Sunquist, and William M. Guiliano. 2011. Living with the Florida Black Bear: A Homeowner’s Guide to Nuisance Bear Prevention. WEC215. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed December 3, 2015. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw250

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2015a. “Black Bear: Ursus americanus floridanus.” Accessed December 3, 2015. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/land/black-bear/

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2015b. “Living with Florida Black Bears.” Accessed December 3, 2015. http://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/wildlife/black-bears/

Guiliano, William M., Holly K. Ober, Lauren Watine, Eric Hellgren, Raoul Boughton, and Dave Telesco. 2014. Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Bears. WEC351. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed December 3, 2015. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw396

Photo credit: HoogzPhoto/iStock/Thinkstock

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sgrenrock

sgrenrock

Web Writer at IFAS Communications

Sam is originally from California and has her BA in linguistics and MFA in poetry. She loves art, animals, culture, and learning about science.

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