Florida Black Bear, Ursus americanus floridanus
The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) is a subspecies of the American black bear. It once held a range that included Florida and southern areas of Georgia and Alabama. Today it occurs in these areas and in southern Mississippi, but its range is now fragmented. This species prefers a habitat within forested areas like sand-pine scrub, wetlands, oak scrub, and upland hardwood forests. This is the only species of bear to prefer a subtropical habitat.
The Florida black bear varies in size depending upon the sex. Males can reach an average weight of 300 pounds, although some individuals have been recorded at 500 pounds, while females can weigh around 198 pounds. The average body length for both males and females ranges between four and six feet. The fur is typically black in color, while the muzzle is typically light brown or cream in color. Some individuals have a white patch of fur on the chest, but this is not common. Although the Florida black bear is solitary, it does not appear to be territorial over its home ranges. This species will gather in small groups or pairs during the breeding season.
The Florida black bear is threatened by habitat loss caused by deforestation for human development. This causes the bears to fall victim to traffic accidents, among other threats. There have been 1,356 recorded deaths of this species caused by motor vehicle accidents since 1976. In 2002, it was found that over 100 of these bears are killed each year, making roads the main threat to the species. However, this species has been protected by law since 1994 and occurs in many protected areas, and there are now around 3,000 bears in Florida. It is thought that this bear is relatively safe from extinction, and in 2012, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) demoted it from a threatened species.
Image Caption: An inquisitive Florida black bear has triggered a remote camera set by biologists. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Wikipedia