Defenders in Action: Promoting Long-Term Recovery Strategies

Since its initial decline, the Florida black bear has made immense progress. But the threats of habitat loss, isolation and human interactions continue to provide a roadblock to full recovery. Defenders is working with state wildlife officials and Florida residents to make sure the black bear remains a lasting member of natural communities in the Sunshine State.

The Problem

Black bear habitat has been dramatically reduced over the past century. Furthermore, the habitat that does exist is fragmented throughout the state, preventing bears from moving from one area to another to ensure the successful cross-breeding required to sustain healthy populations.

How We're Helping

Defenders of Wildlife opened its Florida office in 1994 to launch the Habitat for Bears Campaign, with its main objective being Florida black bear recovery. Defenders went right to work educating the public on the plight of the bear and advocating for conservation land acquisition, improved road planning and installation of wildlife crossings. We also contributed to developing the first Florida black bear state management plan, and helped establish a State Black Bear Coordinator position at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Where We Are Today

Because the Florida black bear population as a whole has increased its numbers, on August 24, 2012, the FWC removed the Florida black bear from the Florida state list of threatened species. But while the overall increase in numbers bodes well for the animals, there are still some sub-populations that are struggling.

Our Florida team continues to work with the FWC, other conservation groups and our activists to find solutions that will allow the state to continue their long-term plans for managing and connecting bear habitat throughout the state. This includes identifying lands that could be used as habitat to link the scattered bear subpopulations, helping create “Bear Smart Communities” and enforcing laws that deter people from feeding bears or encouraging interaction with humans.

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From the Keys and Everglades to the Panhandle’s white sand beaches, Florida is home to some of the country’s most special places and wildlife, but also some of the most imperiled. Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to keeping the Sunshine State a wild and enchanting place.
Success Story
A Win for Wildlife! In April 2012 Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed HB 1117, legislation that would have allowed state zoos and aquariums to lease state-owned land to conduct breeding and research on animals including giraffes, zebras and rhinos.