Black Bears 

The Florida Black Bear, Ursus americanus floridanus, is an American Black Bear subspecies. It was identified by American zoologist C. Hart Merriam in 1896.

Florida Black Bear

Prior to the late 1800s, Florida Black Bears inhabited most of Florida, including many of the Florida Keys. They are now found in a much more sporadic range, mainly in protected areas of Florida, Southern Alabama, Southern Georgia and Southern Mississippi. These protected areas include Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, Apalachicola National Forest, Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Smaller bear populations may be found isolated and scattered in various parts of Florida.

The average Florida Black Bear stands from 2.5 to 3.5 feet in shoulder height. Adult males weigh from 250 to 350 pounds. Though they have been found weighing over 600 pounds. Adult females weigh from 130 to 180 pounds. Body weights increase from 25 to 45 percent in the fall, both for warmth and energy to get them through the winter. The bears measure from 4.5 to 6.5 feet in length. Their fur is a glossy black. However, in Southern Florida, they may lose their dorsal guard hairs and expose a woolly brown undercoat in the summer time. Some bears may also have a white diamond shaped patch on their chest called a blaze. They usually have a light brown muzzle. Their ears are rounded and spread widely apart.

The Florida Black Bears' diet includes berries, acorns, insects, saw palmetto and sabal palm fruits, honey and bee larvae. A small part of the bear's diet includes meat, such as armadillos, wild pigs, and deer.

Female Florida Black Bears become sexually mature at 3 to 4 years, and males at 4 to 5 years. Mating usually occurs between mid June and mid August. Every 2 years, females will give birth to 1 to 4 cubs in January or February. Cubs weigh about 12 ounces and are blind when born, but they will weigh 6 to 8 pounds when leaving the den at about 10 weeks. They will stay with their mother until they are 1 to 2 years old.

American Black Bear Cub STATUS
Since the Florida Black Bear population decreased to between 300 and  500 bears in the 1940s and 1950, it has grown to 2,500 to 3,000 as a result of conservation efforts. They were removed from the Florida state threatened species list on August 24, 2012. However, their habitat continues to dwindle. The number one cause of death to bears in Florida is automobile accidents, averaging over 100 deaths annually.

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Fishing along Florida's more uninhabited coasts can lead to encounters with Florida Black Bears which are abundant throughout the state. There's even a Florida Black Bear Byway which offers viewing by water. The cockpit of downeast boats would provide the perfect place for watching the bears in their natural habitat.

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