Florida's Black Bear

The majority of the information listed here about black bears comes directly from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website.


Yes, we have bears in Florida! The Florida black bear is: 

  • a unique subspecies of the American black bear 

  • listed as a threatened species by the state of Florida 

  • the state's largest land mammal 

Black bears once ranged throughout Florida but now live in several fragmented areas across the state. 

Black bears occupied all of the Florida mainland, including some coastal islands and larger keys before settlement by the early Europeans. 

The occupied range has been reduced to 6 core areas (Eglin, Apalachicola, Osceola, Ocala, St. Johns, and Big Cypress) and 2 remnant areas (Chassahowitzka and Glades/Highlands). 

Bears can be found anywhere in Florida. However, we have documented certain areas that have high bear densities. These regions, or populations, are listed below. 

The bear distribution map includes primary (green) and secondary (brown) black bear ranges. The area they inhabit in search of food, water, and adequate cover is called a home range. 

  • A primary bear range is defined as an area that contains a core bear population, habitat that is important to bear movement, and evidence of reproduction. 
  • A secondary bear range is defined as an area important to bear movement and habitat use, but less optimal than a primary range.
While the Florida black bear has genetic and skeletal characteristics that distinguish them from other subspecies, physically they do not appear very different from other black bears. 

Black bears originated in North America, and have been here at least 1.5 million years.

What Do Black Bears Have in Common With All Bears? 

Like all members of the bear family, black bears are large, powerful mammals with rounded ears, short tails, 5-toed feet, and large canine teeth. 

Black bears walk flat-footed, just like people, with all 5 toes on the ground. While they may look slow because of their shuffling gait, black bears can sprint at up to 35 miles an hour! With their stout, heavily-curved claws, black bears climb trees very well. These claws are non-retractable and can be easily seen in their tracks. 

Although black bears in western states may have several color phases, all black bears in the Southeast, including Florida black bears, are black. The muzzle may be tan or nearly black, and some bears have blonde or white "blazes" on their chests in different shapes and sizes.

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