U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determines status review for the Florida black bear not required

Recently, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined that a petition requesting federal listing of the Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) as threatened or endangered failed to present substantial information indicating that this action was warranted. Thus, after investigating the population abundance and trends of this subspecies of black bear and other issues, the agency has declined to initiate an additional status review.

The Florida black bear is primarily found in Florida, south Georgia, and south Alabama. In the 1970s, the estimated number of adult bears had fallen to only 300 and the subspecies was designated as threatened by Florida and placed on the state’s Endangered and Threatened Species List. 

In June 2012, however, the state removed the subspecies from the List because of strong population numbers and existing protections and conservation measures, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Black Bear Management Plan. The Commission has estimated there are now more than 4,000 adult Florida black bears, more than at any time in the last 100 years.

The petition, which was submitted to the Service in March 2016 by the Center for Biological Diversity and several other environmental organizations and individuals, alleged that the Florida black bear was threatened by numerous factors including habitat loss, vehicle collisions, climate change, overhunting, inadequate regulations, and other factors. The petition also alleged that availability of saw palmetto vegetation and berries has been adversely affected by some forestry practices and changes in use of prescribed fire.

In its 90-day finding, however, the Service indicates that “[because] the petition does not present substantial information indicating that listing the Florida black bear may be warranted, we are not initiating a status review of this species in response to this petition.”

The 90-day finding appeared in the April 19 issue of the Federal Register (Vol. 82, No. 74, pp. 18409 – 18411).