Is the FL Black Bear Still at Risk?
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
BRISTOL, Fla. - The state's black bear management plan was the topic of discussion Tuesday night at a public workshop here.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says Florida black bear numbers have increased and the bear should no longer be on the state's list of threatened species.
Laurie Macdonald, director of Defenders of Wildlife's Florida program, says her group is celebrating the bear's progress, but she notes that several isolated sub-populations are struggling and facing issues such as inbreeding. She thinks the plan should do more to protect them.
"Be sure they bolster the habitat protection provisions; that they bolster the prevention of human-bear conflict provisions."
Unless the state creates habitat links between the small black bear sub-populations, she says, they face extinction threats, shrinking the overall gene pool and undoing their progress. She adds that any plan will take cooperation from the public and other state agencies which oversee public lands and enforce laws.
Ensuring that bear populations are not affected by development, Macdonald says, means identifying lands that could be used as habitat to link the bears rather than separating them.
"We want to be sure that populations are not isolated and that they remain very healthy in their connection with the other said populations of bears."
Macdonald believes another key to bear survival in Florida is preventing human-bear conflict by education and enforcing laws that deter people from feeding bears.
"But if they continue to do it - they know what's right and they're not doing it, they're doing what's wrong - and they're causing a bear to be a bad bear, then law enforcement needs to step in and prosecute."
Defenders of Wildlife says intentional and unintentional feeding and not enforcing the law can result in bears damaging property, which often results in the death of the bear.
Information on the draft bear management plan and the three remaining workshops are online at myfwc.com. The next workshop is Nov. 29 in Naples.
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