black bears

U.S. Forest Service Southern Region

Ways to manage Florida’s black bear population are outlined in the draft of an updated 10-year plan that’s out this week.

Florida’s bear population is estimated at 4,000; and the goal is to keep that number stable, according to Dave Telesco at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. To do that, they have to keep one step ahead – especially this time of year.

WUWF Public Media

Santa Rosa and Okaloosa are among eight Florida counties in line to receive funding from the 'BearWise' program, to help reduce conflicts between bears and humans.

Bear populations in the state were up in 2015, the latest figures available from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), compared to the last estimate taken in 2002. There were roughly 120 bears in the western Panhandle of Florida – a 50 percent increase -- and nearly 1,100 in the eastern Panhandle – up 86 percent.

FWC

With black bear sightings on the rise in Santa Rosa County, local officials are asking the state for help. One official is taking the lead after a close encounter.

County Commissioner Bob Cole’s wife recently discovered an unwanted visitor to their home in Milton.

“We keep the dog and cat foot in trash cans inside the garage,” Cole said. “That particular day, my wife had the garage door open; she later that day found the trash can turned over and the dog food gone. We had seen a bear several weeks prior to that in the woods next to the garage.”

FWC

  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has signed an agreement with a trash and recycling firm, aimed at reducing human-bear conflicts in Northwest Florida.

The memorandum of understanding with the firm Waste Pro USA comes after FWC in June narrowly voted against holding a bear hunt this year. The black bear population has grown from about 500 in the 1970s, to an estimated 4,300 adult bears today.

Photo via Flickr// Florida Fish and Wildlife / https://flic.kr/p/nzFLdu

Residents in the Florida Panhandle are being encouraged to become “Bear Aware:” keeping bears and other wildlife away from their homes.

Florida’s largest land mammal is a conservation success story. Only a few hundred black bears were around in the 1970s. Today, more than 4,300 roam the state and, in some cases, they mosey into residential areas.