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Florida's black bears in the spotlight

As I See It

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff is in the process of holding public workshops around the state, gathering input on a draft plan that will ensure a sustainable and socially acceptable Florida black bear population.

The first meeting was held in late August in the Panhandle; the second, last week in Central Florida. Other meeting dates are being planned, and I encourage citizens and local government representatives to attend these meetings and let us know what you think of the plan.

The plan proposes a framework to manage bears at the local level, including conserving appropriate amounts of bear habitat, stabilizing the level of complaints about bears, and making sure there's a way to fund the plan's implementation.

FWC staff drafted the Bear Management Plan with assistance from a technical advisory group of stakeholders that included representatives from environmental, hunting and government organizations.

The Florida black bear is a state-threatened species whose population is expanding in some areas but quite restricted in others. For example, bears roaming neighborhoods in the Greater Orlando area are fairly common, and nobody would think their population is in peril. But seeing a bear in Weston or West Palm Beach is really unusual, because there are far fewer bears Southeast Florida.

Because of this variability around the state, the plan proposes to create several bear management units, which will consider specific challenges and characteristics of the different geographical locations.

Under the plan, the management units would operate under broad, overall objectives. But within each unit, advisory groups consisting of local governments and individuals would work with the FWC to set management objectives, standards and actions for resolving human-bear conflicts specific to their unit.

At the public workshops, the FWC staff will give a brief presentation outlining the plan and its objectives. Those attending the meetings have plenty of time to ask questions and provide us with comments directly to our staff or through written comment cards.

This is your opportunity to step up and let FWC staff know what you think of the plan to manage bears in Florida, and help them improve the draft. Once they've held workshops throughout the state, compiled and incorporated suggestions as appropriate, they will present a final draft to the Commission at a meeting sometime next year.

Meeting dates and locations will be announced as they are set up, but in the meantime, I encourage you to go online and take a look at the plan, make comments, and plan to attend the meeting in your area. You can read the draft plan, and find more information on Florida black bears, at

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