University of Florida

Florida Black Bear

The Florida black bear is a subspecies of the American black bear that can be found primarily in the Panhandle, northeast Florida, and southwest Florida. This wasn’t always the case, however. Before European settlement, Florida black bears lived throughout mainland Florida, as well as some coastal islands and keys.

In 1974, factors such as deforestation and human encroachment led to the Florida black bear being listed as one of the state’s threatened species. Florida black bears were removed from the state threatened species list in 2012, but it is illegal to injure or kill these bears. It’s also illegal to sell or possess bear parts.

Living Among Bears

Florida black bears are omnivores—they eat mostly plant matter, but their diet also includes insects and meat. This diverse diet allows black bears to eat a variety of foods, and it also allows them to live in a variety of habitats, including habitats close to people.

Although black bears tend to avoid people, they are attracted to food we may leave around our homes, such as garbage and pet food. Bears can become dependent on a food source, which can cause them to lose their fear of humans and associate food with people, so keep food away from areas where bears can access it. 

Never feed bears—it could result in injury or property damage. It’s also illegal to feed bears, which includes intentionally leaving food out to attract them, in Florida.

Bear Encounters

Black bears’ constant search for food may lead them into residential areas, even if all food sources are secured. Although Florida black bears aren’t typically aggressive, they’re large (they’re Florida’s largest land mammal), strong, and can react when provoked. Bears should be given their space. Take the following recommended steps if you encounter a bear near or around your home:

  • Make sure you’re in a safe area, such as a car, and remain calm.
  • Don’t approach the bear. Instead, give it space to retreat.
  • Scare the bear away by making noise. (Try yelling, banging pots and pans, blowing a whistle, or honking a horn.)
  • If the bear won’t leave, move into a building or car until it leaves on its own.

If you encounter a bear that is threatening humans, pets, or livestock, or if you’re experiencing other bear-related problems, contact the nearest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) office.

Adapted and excerpted from:

K. M. Annis, M. E. Sunquist and W. M. Giuliano, “Living with the Florida Black Bear: a Homeowner's Guide to Nuisance Bear Prevention” (WEC215), UF/IFAS Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department (rev. 01/2011).

Florida Black Bear,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Accessed 04/2014). 

Florida Black Bear,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Accessed 04/2014). 

Living with Florida Black Bears,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Accessed 04/2014). 

 “What can you do about a bear near your home?Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Accessed 04/2014). 

black bear

Related Sites & Articles

Popular Stories

For-Sale Products