Ursus americanus floridanus - Merriam, 1896
Florida Black Bear
Other English Common Names: Florida black bear
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Ursus americanus floridanus Merriam, 1896 (TSN 726978)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103279
Element Code: AMAJB01011
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Mammals - Carnivores
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Carnivora Ursidae Ursus
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Hall, E. R. 1981a. The Mammals of North America, second edition. Vols. I & II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York. 1181 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B81HAL01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Ursus americanus floridanus
Taxonomic Comments: Differences between floridanus and the contiguous subspecies, luteolus and americanus, with both of which floridanus presumably intergrades, are slight. Nonetheless, preliminary results of current studies by Kennedy suggest that floridanus is a valid taxon.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5T4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Jul2018
Global Status Last Changed: 09Jul2018
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by calculator
Rounded Global Status: T4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Population has increased, and is likely to continue to increase over the short term, but habitat fragmentation and highway mortality remain significant threats.
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (09Jul2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S2), Florida (S4), Georgia (S4)

Other Statuses

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Protection Status (CITES): Appendix II

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Historical range was mainly in Florida but extended into coastal plain areas of Georgia, Alabama, and extreme southeastern Mississippi. In Florida this species is widely distributed, occupying about 45% of its historical range. Concentrations occur in the Apalachicola basin, Osceola NF and adjacent Pinhook Swamp, Gulf Hammock, Ocala NF, St. Johns River basin, and Big Cypress region. The range extends into the areas within and around the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia and into southwest Alabama.

Area of Occupancy: 2,501-12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments: AOO roughly estimated using GeoCat (http://geocat.kew.org).

Number of Occurrences: 6 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: In Florida, approximately 10 populations, with two to four very secure (Osceola and Apalachicola National Forests, followed by Big Cypress National Preserve and Ocala National Forest).

Population Size: 2500 - 10,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: In Florida, current population estimate (2018) is over 4,000 bears.

In Alabama, about 377 sq km support an estomated population of less than 50 bears; bears also may occur occasionally on an additional 6,641 sq km of adjacent lands but not as a resident breeding population (USFWS 1998).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Few (4-12)

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Habitat loss and fragmentation are major threats in the historical range, but not for the four major remaining populations. Much habitat has been and is being lost to expanding urbanization, agricultural development, and increasing recreational use of wildlands (Maehr and Wooding 1992). Small Alabama population in shrinking habitat shows signs of excessive inbreeding and could be extirpated in the near future (USFWS 1998). Hunting has been eliminated as a significant threat (USFWS 1998); now restricted to the five counties surrounding the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Illegal persecution by beekeepers, poachers, timbermen, farmers, etc., may be a problem in some areas. Highway mortality has been significant (250 bears were killed on Florida highways from 1976 to 1991), particularly in the Florida peninsula. However, USFWS (1998) concluded that illegal killing and highway mortality currently are not significant threats, though the bear is sensitive to excessive mortality due to its low reproductive rate (Maehr and Wooding 1992).

Short-term Trend: Increase of 10-25%
Short-term Trend Comments: In Florida the population declined at least 50% from 1960 to the 1990s, but more recently the population has increased. In the two hunted populations, there was no indication of a decline throughout the 1980's despite a mean harvest of 46 per year. However, there was concern of overharvest for 1990, and the state has altered regulations accordingly. A managed hunt of the populations in the Apalachicola and Ocala National Forests was conducted in 2015. In the recent past, highway mortality has exceeded legal take in Florida.

Long-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)
Long-term Trend Comments: Population has rebounded from an estimated population size of 300 bears in 1974 (Brian Scheick, pers. comm., 2004).

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Broad. Generalist or community with all key requirements common.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Inventory Needs: Careful monitoring of population is needed.

Protection Needs: Through purchase or easement, protect additional habitat large enough to support viable populations of bears.

Distribution
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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Historical range was mainly in Florida but extended into coastal plain areas of Georgia, Alabama, and extreme southeastern Mississippi. In Florida this species is widely distributed, occupying about 45% of its historical range. Concentrations occur in the Apalachicola basin, Osceola NF and adjacent Pinhook Swamp, Gulf Hammock, Ocala NF, St. Johns River basin, and Big Cypress region. The range extends into the areas within and around the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia and into southwest Alabama.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.

Map unavailable!:
Distribution data for U.S. states and Canadian provinces is known to be incomplete or has not been reviewed for this taxon.
Endemism: endemic to a single nation

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, FL, GA

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AL Covington (01039)*, Mobile (01097)*
FL Alachua (12001), Baker (12003), Bay (12005), Bradford (12007), Brevard (12009), Broward (12011), Calhoun (12013), Charlotte (12015), Citrus (12017), Clay (12019), Collier (12021), Columbia (12023), Dixie (12029), Duval (12031), Flagler (12035), Franklin (12037), Gadsden (12039), Glades (12043), Gulf (12045), Hamilton (12047), Hardee (12049), Hendry (12051), Hernando (12053), Highlands (12055), Jefferson (12065), Lake (12069), Lee (12071), Leon (12073), Levy (12075), Liberty (12077), Madison (12079), Marion (12083), Miami-Dade (12086), Monroe (12087), Okaloosa (12091), Orange (12095), Osceola (12097), Pasco (12101), Polk (12105), Putnam (12107), Santa Rosa (12113), Sarasota (12115), Seminole (12117), St. Johns (12109), Sumter (12119), Suwannee (12121), Taylor (12123), Union (12125), Volusia (12127), Wakulla (12129), Walton (12131)
GA Appling (13001), Atkinson (13003), Bacon (13005), Brantley (13025), Brooks (13027), Charlton (13049), Clinch (13065), Coffee (13069), Echols (13101), Grady (13131), Lanier (13173), Lowndes (13185), Pierce (13229), Thomas (13275), Ware (13299), Wayne (13305)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Satilla (03070201)+, Little Satilla (03070202)+, St. Marys (03070204)+, Upper St. Johns (03080101)+, Oklawaha (03080102)+, Lower St. Johns (03080103)+, Daytona - St. Augustine (03080201)+, Cape Canaveral (03080202)+, Kissimmee (03090101)+, Western Okeechobee Inflow (03090103)+, Lake Okeechobee (03090201)+, Everglades (03090202)+, Big Cypress Swamp (03090204)+, Caloosahatchee (03090205)+, Peace (03100101)+, Myakka (03100102)+, Charlotte Harbor (03100103)+, Crystal-Pithlachascotee (03100207)+, Withlacoochee (03100208)+, Waccasassa (03110101)+, Econfina-Steinhatchee (03110102)+, Aucilla (03110103)+, Upper Suwannee (03110201)+, Alapaha (03110202)+, withlacoochee (03110203)+, Little (03110204)+, Lower Suwannee (03110205)+, Santa Fe (03110206)+, Apalachee Bay-St. Marks (03120001)+, Upper Ochlockonee (03120002)+, Lower Ochlockonee (03120003)+, Apalachicola (03130011)+, Chipola (03130012)+, New (03130013)+, Apalachicola Bay (03130014)+, St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays (03140101)+, Choctawhatchee Bay (03140102)+, Yellow (03140103)+, Blackwater (03140104)+, Pensacola Bay (03140105)+, Lower Choctawhatchee (03140203)+, Escambia (03140305)+, Mobile - Tensaw (03160204)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: Florida black bear, Ursidae.
General Description: Overall pelage color black or woolly brown, with a brown snout and sometimes a blond chest patch; small rounded ears; five toes on both front and rear feet; average mass about 82 kg for female, 113 kg for males (but up to 285 kg) (Maehr and Wooding 1992).
Reproduction Comments: Breeds apparently in June-July. Implantation is delayed about four months (also reported as 5-6 months). Gestation lasts 7-7.5 months (average 220 days). Females give birth every two years at most. Young are born January-February, stay with mother until fall of second year. Litter size usually is 2-4. Females generally first give birth at 3-4 years. As in the southern Appalachians, productivity and survival of young may be enhanced when fall food (especially hard mast) supply is favorable (A89EIL01NA).
Ecology Comments: Basically solitary, aside from family groups of mother and young.

Home range sizes determined via radiotelemetry were about 28 sq km for females and 170 sq km for males (largest male range was about 450 sq km) (see Maehr and Wooding 1992). A 140-km movement by a 2.5-year-old male may have been a dispersal event (Maehr and Wooding 1992).

May be a important agent of dispersal and germination for plants requiring acid scarification (see Maehr and Wooding 1992).

Major mortality factors are associated with humans and include legal hunting (northern Florida), poaching, and vehicle collisions (Maehr and Wooding 1992).

Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: N
Palustrine Habitat(s): FORESTED WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Fallen log/debris, Standing snag/hollow tree
Habitat Comments: Large undeveloped wooded tracts; pine flatwoods, hardwood swamp, cypress swamp, cabbage palm forest, sand pine scrub, mixed hardwood hammock; usually in areas that include multiple forest types; habitat use varies with food availability (Maehr and Wooding 1992, which see for further details). Inhabits areas of dense cover, such as those referred to as "bay-galls" in south Florida, "swamps" in middle Florida, and titi swamps in the panhandle (Layne 1978). Dens usually are in thick shrub/vine cover in remote swamps or thickets, sometimes in hollow trees (Maehr and Wooding 1992).

Young are born in a den in dense cover or hollow tree, in hardwood swamp or dense thicket (Wooding and Hardisky 1992).

Adult Food Habits: Carnivore, Frugivore, Granivore, Herbivore, Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Carnivore, Frugivore, Granivore, Herbivore, Invertivore
Food Comments: Opportunistic omnivore. Dominant foods may include herbaceous matter in early spring, soft fruits in summer, and hard mast in fall. Major food items include the fruits and hearts of saw palmetto and cabbage palm, and the fruits of swamp tupelo, oaks, blueberry, and gallberry (ILEX GLABRA). Insects are the most important animal food, the introduced honey bee being a frequent item. Vertebrates, such as armadillos, wild hogs, and deer, are eaten infrequently (Maehr and Wooding 1992).
Adult Phenology: Circadian, Crepuscular, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Circadian, Crepuscular, Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Primarily nocturnal. May be dormant in winter for periods ranging from a few days to several months; pregnant females remain inactive in dens for minimum of 3-4 months; males and barren females spend less time in hibernation (Wooding and Hardisky 1992, Maehr and Wooding 1992).
Weight: 113000 grams
Economic Attributes
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Economic Comments: Not a serious economic pest in Florida, except to bee-keepers, especially from April through June in the northern counties (adequate preventative measures are available) (Layne 1978, Maehr and Wooding 1992).
Management Summary
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Management Requirements: Intense forestry practices involving even-age timber management over large areas probably reduce habitat suitability for bears (Maehr and Wooding 1992). Large-scale winter burning may reduce food resource diversity by increasing saw palmetto and reducing blueberry and runner oak; summer burning may encourage the latter species and should be considered in managing areas occupied by bears (Maehr and Wooding 1992). Beeyards can be protected through the use of a well-maintained electric fence in conjunction with a trap-and-release program (see Maehr and Wooding 1992).

Limited sport hunting where populations would not be adversely affected could be helpful in generating support (among hunters) for maintaining, protecting, and reestablishing bear populations (Layne 1978). In large areas of suitable habitat, apparently can sustain regulated annual fall harvests (Maehr and Wooding 1992).

Highway underpasses for bears should be installed along major movement corridors. In 1994, an experimental underpass was built on S.R. 46 in Florida; the state is radio-monitoring bears to determine their use of this prototype, which could help reduce the number of road kills.

Monitoring Requirements: Better information on the effects of human-induced mortality is needed.

Attention should be paid to the potential problem of illegal harvesting of bears to supply the trade in bear gall bladders and other parts.

Management Research Needs: Maintain a diversity of habitats over extensive acreage, including dense baygalls that are inaccessible to humans.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Help
Population/Occurrence Viability
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Justification: Use the Generic Element Occurrence Rank Specifications (2008).
Key for Ranking Species Element Occurrences Using the Generic Approach (2008).
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
Help
Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 09Jul2018
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Jackson, D. R., and G. Hammerson (2015), Price, F. (2018).
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 06Apr1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • Brady, J. R., and D. S. Maehr. 1985. Distribution of black bears in Florida. Florida Field Naturalist 13:1-7.

  • Dusi, J. L. 1987. Ecology of the black bear in southwest Alabama. Final report, project no. W-44. Alabama Department of Wildlife and Conservation. 21 September 1993. 23 pp.

  • Eiler, J. H., W. G. Wathen, and M. R. Pelton. 1989. Reproduction in black bears in the southern Appalachian Mountains. J. Wildlife Management 53:53:353-360.

  • Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. 1993. Management of the black bear in Florida: a staff report to the Commissioners. 21 September 1993. 23 pp.

  • Hall, E. R. 1981a. The Mammals of North America, second edition. Vols. I & II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York. 1181 pp.

  • Humm, Jacob M., J. Walter McCown, Brian K. Scheick, Joseph D. Clark. 2017. Spatially Explicit Population Estimates for Black Bears Based on Cluster Sampling. The Journal of Wildlife Management 81(7):1187?1201.

  • Kasbohm, J. W., D. A. Miller, and M. R. Vaughan. 1994. Taxonomy of black bears in the southeastern United States. Second annual report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 24 pp.

  • Kasbohm, J. W., and M. R. Vaughan. 1993. Taxonomy of black bears in the southeastern United States. First annual report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 17 pp.

  • Layne, J. N., editor. 1978. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. 1. Mammals. State of Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission. xx + 52 pp.

  • Maehr, D. S., E. D. Land, and J. C. Roof. 1993. Southwest Florida black bear habitat use, distribution, movements, and conservation strategy. Annual report, Project W-41 XXXII, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee. 61 pp.

  • Maehr, D. S., and J. B. Wooding. 1992. Florida black bear URSUS AMERICANUS FLORIDANUS. Pages 265-275 in S. R. Humphrey, editor. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. I. Mammals. Univ. Press of Florida, Gainesville. xviii + 392 pp.

  • Miller, D. A., J. W. Kasbohm, and M. R. Vaughan. 1995. Taxonomy of black bears in the southeastern United States. Third annual report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 20 pp.

  • Murphy SM, Augustine BC, Ulrey WA,Guthrie JM, Scheick BK, McCown JW, et al. (2017)Consequences of severe habitat fragmentation on density, genetics, and spatial capture-recapture analysis of a small bear population. PLoS ONE 12 (7): e0181849. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181849

  • Seibert, S. G. 1993. Status and management of black bears in Apalachicola National Forest. Final Report, Project W-41 XXX, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee. 29 pp.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 8 December 1998. New 12-month finding for a petition to list the Florida black bear. Federal Register 63(235):67613-67618.

  • Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Third edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland. Two volumes. 2,142 pp. [Available online at: http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/ ]

  • Wooding, J. B. 1990. Black bear harvest analysis. Final report, Study No. 7554, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee. 8 pp.

  • Wooding, J. B. 1993. Monitoring black bear populations by carcass necropsy. Annual report, Project W-41 XXIX, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Tallahassee. 3 pp.

  • Wooding, J. B., and T. S. Hardisky. 1992. Denning by black bears in northcentral Florida. J. Mammalogy 73:895-898.

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