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Are There Bears in Florida?

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Real bears are no teddies, of course. So as with many other animals, you would not expect to find them everywhere you go.

Even amongst the areas with some bear populations, you will find that the distribution and the likelihood of seeing bears vary. In this article, we intend to talk about bears in Florida.

Are there bears in Florida?

Yes, there are bears in Florida. Before the early Europeans started settling, bears had occupied most of Florida’s mainland, larger keys, and some coastal islands. But around the mid-1970s, their historic range had shrunk to about 18% of what it was initially. At this point, some of the bear population remained in specific core areas.

Close up big brown bear in autumn forest

Deforestation, farming, ranching, and housing are some of the factors that contributed to the shrinkage of the historic Florida bear range. Currently, it appears that the bears may have re-occupied around 49% of their historic region.

There is more to know about the bears in Florida. So, in this post, we will run through some types of bears in Florida, the areas you can find bears, and how dangerous some of these bears can be.

Where to See Bears in Florida

Bears are distributed all over Florida, including the keys. But currently, it appears their habitat is sparse.

You can find wild bears in almost half of Florida. However, since bears prefer dense understory and are wary of humans, they are difficult to spot.

Bears in Florida live in areas with large forests where they can find food in abundance.

They are also common in oak scrub, forested wetlands, sand pine scrub, and upland hardwood forests.

In south Florida, you may find black bears – the only subspecies in America inhabiting subtropical regions. Most of the black bear population in Florida live on or near protected areas and public lands.

Group of brown bears, bear standing on his hind legs in the autumn forest

Some of these areas include Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Everglades National Park, Osceola National Forest, Ocala National Forest, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Apalachicola National Forest. 

However, you may find smaller populations scattered and isolated in some other parts of Florida. Some of these areas include Glades counties, Chassahowitzka and Highlands. 

Are There Grizzly Bears in Florida?

No, there are no Grizzly bears in Florida. The only species of bear in Florida is the Florida black bear.

Are There Bears in the Florida Panhandle?

Yes, there are bears in Florida Panhandle. The Florida black bear is found mainly in the Panhandle, southwest Florida, and northeast Florida. 

Up until the Europeans came around, Florida black bears were found throughout the Florida mainland, keys, and some coastal islands. 

Are There Bears in the Everglades?

Yes, there are bears in the Everglades. There is a chance you may spot them in forested tidal channels and areas with oak scrubs.

The bears enjoy staying in the Everglades because it is protected. Here, the bears can roam free and still avoid humans. All in all, they prefer to stay in isolated subpopulations all over the state.

Flocus shot of Bear in lake

Are There Bears in Orlando?

There have been various sightings of bears in Orlando, and the worst bear attack on record in Florida happened in Orlando.

Besides, the suburbs of Orlando are within the range of the most bear-heavy areas in Florida. So, there are definitely bears in Orlando.

Are There Bears in Naples?

Yes, there are bears in Naples. In July 2019, it was reported that an injured bear named 8-ball was on the loose in Naples, Florida. About a year before that, there were various reports of black bear sightings in North Naples.

Are There Bears in Miami?

As we have mentioned, black bears are all over Florida and most probably in Miami too. In our search, we saw no reports of bear sightings in Miami itself. However, we saw reports of sightings in areas around Miami. One such area is Homestead.

In July 2019, a black bear was spotted in a Homestead neighborhood, as confirmed by the vice mayor at the time. Going by this sighting, it is highly likely that bears are in Miami, too.

Black bear walking against blurry road background

Are There Bears in Central Florida?

Yes, there are bears in Central Florida. Various sources, including the FWC, have confirmed the presence of black bears in Central Florida.

Are There Brown Bears in Florida?

No, there are no brown bears in Florida. Although brown bears are the most widely distributed bear species in the world, they are only found in the mountains and forests of Asia, Europe, and northern North America.

The largest known brown bears in the world are found in Alaska and coastal British Columbia. 

Are Black Bears in Florida Dangerous?

A black bear’s search for food may take them into a residential area, even when all available food sources are well-secured. Florida black bears are strong and huge but not usually aggressive. They may, however, react if provoked. 

Whenever you spot a black bear, ensure you give it some space. It could be a young bear looking for a place to call home.

It could be an adult bear checking out an interesting sound or exciting smell. Once the bear discovers people are around, it will usually leave immediately.

A black bear portrait in a field

If you ever encounter a black bear around or near your home, remain calm and take the following steps:

  • Ensure you are in a safe place like inside a car and remain calm. 
  • Stand your ground and face it directly. Do not engage the bear or run away. 
  • Try to look as big as possible. You can spread out your arms, or you could use a coat.
  • Making a lot of noise will scare the bear away. You can try banging pans and pots, yelling, honking a horn, or blowing a whistle.
  • If the bear gets too close and you have bear spray, use it on the bear.
  • It is rare for black bears to attack. But if it does attack, fight back, and do not play dead.
  • If the bear does not leave, go into a car or building until it decides to leave.
  • Once the bear leaves, find out what attracted it to your location and remove it.

Final Take

Bears are in Florida – in fact, according to historical evidence, most of Florida was inhabited by bears until civilization set in. The only type of bear you will find in now Florida is the Florida black bear, a subspecies of the American black bear.

Most bears in Florida prefer to live in forests where they have enough food and can avoid humans. Notwithstanding, they can be attracted to the food in and around our homes. 


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