Florida FWC Releases Bear Management Plan

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is soliciting public input on a draft bear management plan. This plan sets up the framework for the FWC to make effective bear management decisions in conjunction with stakeholders and the public who live in bear country. The goal of the plan is to maintain sustainable bear populations in suitable habitats throughout Florida for the benefit of the species and the public.

As a result of human population growth and loss of habitat, the Florida black bear's population varies greatly from region to region, which requires a management plan that is adaptable to address the needs of the bear population and the residents living in those areas. Therefore, the plan creates bear management units across the state, which will specifically address the challenges and characteristics of the different areas. Within those units, black bear assistance groups will work with the FWC to set management objectives and standards for resolving human-bear conflicts.

Currently, the two most serious threats to bears are negative interactions with humans and habitat loss and fragmentation. As a result, the draft plan sets objectives, which include conserving an adequate amount of bear habitat, stabilizing bear complaint levels and securing adequate funding for implementation.

FWC staff drafted the plan with assistance from a technical advisory group that included representatives from environmental groups, hunting clubs and state and federal agencies.

"We encourage the public to help us improve this draft and develop the final plan," said Dave Telesco, the FWC's bear management coordinator. "Feedback from the public will undoubtedly improve this plan and make it as effective as possible."

The draft plan is available online for public review and comment, and public meetings will be held in multiple locations across the state.

The plan is available for viewing at http://share2.myfwc.com/BearMP/default.aspx. Public comments will be accepted until Aug. 31. Public meeting dates and locations will be announced after the FWC meets with representatives of private and public stakeholder groups to discuss the best way to gather public input.

For more information on Florida's black bear, go to MyFWC.com/Bear.