What is a BMU?

The FWC approved the Florida Black Bear Management Plan  in 2012 to conserve the state’s largest land mammal. The 10-year plan calls for the creation of seven Bear Management Units (BMUs) across the state.

A BMU is a geographic location bounded by county and/or state borders with one of the seven Florida black bear subpopulations within it. The goal of a BMU is to provide a defined area within which FWC can have a community-focused effort to effectively manage and conserve Florida black bears.

FWC will engage with a Bear Stakeholder Group (BSG) within each BMU in order to manage black bears based on the local bear and human populations and receive public input on managing and conserving bears within the BMU.

A Bear Stakeholder Group (BSG) is a core group of government officials, members of the public, landowners, non-profit organizations, partner agencies, and businesses in a specific BMU. The BSG will meet multiple times a year to work collaboratively with FWC staff to address bear issues in their BMU.

FWC began launching the BMUs in October 2013 with the West Panhandle BMU, followed by the Central BMU in March 2014, East Panhandle BMU in April 2014, South BMU in June 2014, the North and South Central BMUs in October and September 2014, and lastly the Big Bend BMU in December 2014. FWC hosted multiple public workshops and government briefings where local government partners and residents provided input on bear issues they were experiencing and ideas on how to reduce conflicts.

If you were unable to attend a meeting but still would like to join a Bear Stakeholder Group, please contact staff at

Explore the map to learn more about your BMU and how you can get involved.

Statewide BMU Bear Range Map - Brown=Abundant; Beige=Common; Tan=Occasional; Eggshell= Rare West Panhandle East Panhandle North Central Big Bend South Central South

Please watch for notice of meetings about your BMU and how you can get involved. You also can sign up for GovDelivery External Website, a new service available through allowing you to receive automatic emails and/or text messages with FWC news and information on this and other topics.


Each BMU will be managed to meet specific goals related to bear subpopulation size, potential habitat, human-bear conflicts, and potential threats, such as vehicle related mortality (i.e., roadkill).


The following graphs will allow you to compare how your BMU stacks up against the other six BMUs.

FWC estimates the statewide bear population to be approximately 4,050 bears.  The average number of bears per BMU are outlined below.

Florida Black Bear Population Estimates

Bear Management Unit
 YearPopulation Estimate Percent Change
West Panhandle





50% increase
 East Panhandle


86% increase




92% increase




17% increase
(Big Cypress) 


49% increase
 Subtotal 2002


48% increase
 Big Bend1
2010 30  
South Central2
2011 100  

Statewide Total
  4,050 50% increase

Note 1: Low bear population densities in the Big Bend Bear Management Unit prevented use of 2014/2015 population estimate method.
Note 2: Current population methodology was used to estimate bear populations in the South Central Bear Management Unit in 2011, however, it is too soon to detect any population shifts. For most accurate results, researchers typically wait for a full generation cycle, estimated at about 8 years, between population surveys.


FWC Bear Management Unit Population Model Report Adobe PDF


otential bear habitat are areas with characteristics that make them more likely to have bears living there.  As the name implies, however, potential bear habitat is not necessarily occupied by bears.  The four characteristics of potential bear habitat are: 1) land cover type (e.g., forest vs. urban), 2) habitat size, 3) distance from high quality habitats, and 4) connectivity and size of large habitats across the landscape.  See the following pie chart for the potential acreage available in each BMU.

Figure 1: 2016 Potential Bear Habitat by BMU (n = 16.4 million acres)
Potential bear habitat - see figure 1 caption below
Figure 1 Caption: In order of the most acreage - East Panhandle (4.1 million), Central (3.4 million), South Central (2.5 million), West Panhandle (1.7 million), North (1.6 million), South (1.6 million) and Big Bend (1.5 million)



FWC receives thousands of bear-related calls from people each year.  Some of the calls are positive or neutral in nature, such as reporting a sighting of a bear in the area. Other calls may be more serious, like a bear accessing unsecured garbage. FWC staff offer advice to callers to try to resolve the issue being raised.  The next pie chart demonstrates how many calls each BMU has received during the time period noted.


Figure 2: Bear Related Calls by BMU (2010 - 2016)
Bear related calls by BMU - See Figure 2 caption below
Figure 2 Caption: This pie chart shows the BMU for bear related calls received by FWC from the public from 2010 to 2016, totaling 40,446 calls. Central (dark green slice) = 55%; East Panhandle (orange slice) = 17%; West Panhandle (yellow slice) = 15%; South (grey slice) = 10%; South Central (dark blue slice) = 2%; North (light green slice) = 1%; Big Bend (light blue slice) = <1% 


The final goal to be addressed is potential threats to a bear subpopulation.  As you can see in the pie chart below, vehicle related deaths (i.e., roadkill) were substantial in two of the BMUs.

Figure 3: Roadkill Bears by BMU 2010 - 2016 (n = 1,605)
Roadkill of Bear by BMU - see figure 3 caption below

Figure 3 Caption: This pie chart shows the BMU for bears killed by vehicle strikes in Florida from 2010 to 2016, totaling 1,605 bears. Central (dark green slice) = 52%; East Panhandle (orange slice) = 28%; West Panhandle (yellow slice) = 6%; South (grey slice) = 6%; North (light green slice) = 4%; South Central (dark blue slice) = 3%; Big Bend (light blue slice) = <1%.

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