Lesson Ten: Oh Where, Oh Where is the Florida Black Bear?

FWClogoSmallBlack bears have lived in Florida for several thousand years. Before European settlement, an estimated 11,000 black bears lived in forested habitats throughout the state. During the mid-20th century, Florida lost more than seven million acres of forest and herbaceous wetlands to development. As one of the fastest developing states in the country, wildlife habitat in Florida is being converted to development every day. When a map showing the current distribution of the Florida black bear is examined, it is easy to see that Florida’s black bear population is primarily located in areas where forestlands have not been converted by human development, such as agriculture and urbanization. Today, most of Florida’s black bears reside in a total area covering approximately 45 percent of the species’ original range.

While biologists are not able to know exactly how many black bears are in Florida, the population estimates used in this activity are based on the best available data. In 2016, the Florida black bear population was estimated at around 4,000 bears, and all data indicate the population is increasing annually. In addition to a reduction in the amount of habitat available for Florida black bears, another problem is that bear habitat is becoming more fragmented. The process of breaking larger areas of habitat into smaller pieces, often as a result of human activities such as road building and urbanization, is called habitat fragmentation

In this Lesson Ten: “Oh Where, Oh Where is the Florida Black Bear?, students will label bear Lesson 10_thumbpopulations on a Florida map, compare and contrast key characteristics of Florida black bear habitat, discuss habitat fragmentation and how development and urbanization affect Florida black bears.

Of the state’s total 37 million acres, a total of almost 10 million are now in some form of conservation. As habitat for Florida black bears is conserved, hundreds of other lesser-known rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species, like the round-tailed muskrat, the crested caracara, the short-tailed snake, the carpenter frog, the Seminole spring snail, the ghost orchid, and the sweet pitcher plant will also be conserved.

Lesson Summary:

Key Question: Where are black bears still found in Florida?

Main Topic: Distribution of remaining black bear populations in Florida

Format: Reading and mapping activity

Description: Students locate the remaining areas of Florida black bear habitat on a map and compare and contrast key characteristics of theses remaining areas of habitat.  They also explore the impact of habitat fragmentation due to development and urbanization on Florida black bear populations.

Common Core Standards: Coming Soon

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