FWC: Florida Black Bears May Be Removed From Endangered List

06/26/2012 01:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 26, 2012

In the past three months, black bears have bitten a Florida woman on the butt while she was walking her dog and been filmed wrestling in a Florida front yard.

The sudden uptick in human encounters with these bears may be due to the fact the state's black bear population has been steadily growing. So much so, in fact, that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering removing them from their endangered species list.

According to FWC’s 2011 Biological Status Review, the animal’s population has increased from 300 in the 1970s to more than 3,000, with the largest number living in the Ocala National Forest.

Though the FWC says the animals would be monitored and managed by 7 black bear management units even if they roll off the list, environmentalists fear that less protection will lead to a diminishing population.

Matthew Schwartz, executive director of South Florida Wildlands Association, disagrees with the FWC and questions its methodology deciding the bear is no longer endangered.

“We’re expecting less habitat, more roads, more road kill. We’re also expecting bears to be pushed into smaller pockets, and they’re already geographically and genetically isolated from each other,” he said.

In the FWC's own projections, the Florida black bear will lose 2.3 million acres of habitat by 2060. Also, bears currently only enjoy 18 percent of the roaming space they once had in the state.

Scientists said the video of two bears wrestling in a Seminole County yard shows how little space the animals have.

“Bears are showing up in people’s backyards because people are moving into bears’ backyards,” Schwartz said.

Members of the South Florida Wildlands Association and other scientists and environmental groups have reached out to the FWC to show their disapproval of the delisting. A meeting on the issue is scheduled for is June 27 at 8:30 a.m. in Palm Beach Gardens.

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