2015-05-07 General Meeting – Florida Black Bear

The Florida Black Bear Takes Center Stage

National Bear Awareness Week is May 18-24th. Our May program will feature a presentation about the Florida black bear by Biologist, Catherine Kennedy from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Since the 1980s, the black bear population has been expanding along with our human population. Florida has grown from 5 million residents in 1960 to over 18.8 million today and is projected to reach almost 36 million by 2060. Urban sprawl is encroaching on traditionally remote areas, bringing people into prime bear habitat. As a result, bears and people are encountering each other more than ever.

The mere presence of a black bear does not represent a problem. In fact, living in black bear country can provide unique and rewarding experiences! The best way to enjoy our wildlife is to keep them wild and away from food sources like garbage, pet food, and bird seed.

Florida bear facts:

  • Black bears are the only species of bear found in Florida
  • FWC biologists estimate that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 black bears in Florida
  • Black bears are generally black with a brown muzzle and may have a white chest marking called a blaze
  • Adult male black bears usually weigh between 250 to 350 lbs. The largest adult male black bear in Florida weighed 624 lbs. Adult female black bears are smaller than males, usually weighing between 130 and 180 lbs. The largest adult female black bear in Florida weighed 383 lbs.
  • Adult male black bears usually live within a 60 square mile area, whereas females usually live within a 15 square mile area.
  • Female bears have their first litter at about 3 ½ years old and generally have a litter every other year.
  • In Florida, the breeding season runs from June to August and cubs are born around late January or early February.
  • Bears are excellent climbers and often climb trees when they are frightened.
  • About 80 percent of a black bear’s diet comes from plants (e.g., fruits, nuts, berries), 15 percent from insects (e.g., termites, ants, yellow jackets) and 5 percent from meat (e.g., opossums, armadillos, carrion.

Bio: Catherine Kennedy

Senior Wildlife Assistance Biologist, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, UF

Catherine currently served as FWC’s Senior Wildlife Assistance Biologist for North Florida, overseeing the Northwest and North Central regions’ Wildlife Assistance Programs. Overall goals include identifying emerging issues and proactively engage communities about nuisance wildlife to provide sustainable solutions to mitigate and resolve conflict. Her position also serves as liaison to the Florida Cooperative Extension Service and the University’s Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department with the goal of strengthening existing relationships and creating new partnerships.

Catherine earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology in 2004, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 2012, both from Western Carolina University. Prior to joining FWC in 2012, she worked in a variety of positions, including service as an Avian Field Ecologist with the University of Georgia and as a research program assistant with Western Carolina University. Prior experience also includes work as an architectural designer and as a nature columnist.