Do Florida Black Bears Hibernate
Bears, they are without a doubt one of the most feared creatures in the animal kingdom. They are not just feared by other, smaller creatures, but they are oftentimes feared by hunters, campers, hikers, and humans alike. With bears making more and more of an appearance in suburban and rural areas, people have to be alert more than ever.
You’ve likely heard some news story lately of some bear running loose in a nearby neighborhood. Maybe you’ve seen one or two yourself. Whatever the situation is, there is no denying that these creatures can be vicious.
This doesn’t mean that they always are, but if provoked, they won’t hesitate to pounce. Your best chance of survival is to understand everything you possibly can about them. This article will cover the hibernation rituals of Florida black bears.
Understanding The Florida Black Bear
When most people think of a Florida black bear they are typically going to picture just another black bear. This is somewhat of an accurate and fair depiction, but it is also misleading. Given that they are referred to as Florida black bears, Florida is not the only state that they are commonly found in.
In fact, the Florida black bear is actually part of the class of species known as Mammalia. These species can be located all throughout Florida, southern Georgia, and even as far north as Alabama. Their scientific name, Ursus americanus floridanus, is one that comes from the Latin words meaning Florida American bear.
They are obviously a subspecies of the American black bear are considered large mammals. They can grow anywhere from as long as 6 feet and as tall as 3.5 feet. They feature a glossy black coat that contains a wooly brown under-coat along with a brown muzzle. Their ears are round and they have the shortest of tails.
Some of these creatures can have a diamond-shaped white chest patch, but this is not always the case. Just because a black bear doesn’t have this diamond-shaped white patch, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t a Florida black bear. A typical male can weigh in at anywhere from 250 to 300 pounds, while the females will on reach anywhere from 130 to 180 pounds.
You can clearly see that the males almost double that in the weight of the females. They usually like to increase their body weight by as much as 40% in the fall to survive the winter.
This species was first recognized in the 70s and there was only a recorded population of 100 or so bears. Their numbers are nearly in the 4,000s today thanks to all the conservation efforts to save these bears.
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Knowing Their Habitat And Distribution
You learned earlier that despite their name, these creatures can be found in Florida as well as Alabama and Georgia. That being said, they like to primarily live in forested areas. However, they are by no means strangers to swamps, scrub oak ridges or bay heads.
They’ll also hunker down in the areas and set up shop, but they are going to thrive in habitats that provide annual supplies of food along with ample seclusion for denning. You might be surprised to learn it, but these bears mostly live solitary lives. It will be the females that establish large home ranges based on her available resources.
The more productive the habitat, the smaller the home range. Males usually base their home ranges on the availability of the female species.
A Look At Reproduction And Offspring
Speaking of cohabitation between the male and female, it is the adult bears that reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age. Their breeding season kicks off in mid-June and will last until mid-August. If a female is successfully impregnated, she’ll have to den in the winter from the months of December to April.
This is roughly 100 days or more. While the female is tucked away in the den, there is the possibility that she can give birth to anywhere from one to five cubs. When the cubs first come, they’ll be grossly undeveloped, weighing in at just 12 ounces.
By the time the reach 10 weeks old, the should weigh anywhere from 6 to 7 pounds. From this point, they’ll continue to pack on the weight. Cubs will usually remain in the dens with their mother until the following May or July.
They won’t be ready to make a claim for themselves until they are at least 15 months old. Some may even hang around until they are 17 months old.
The Diet Of The Florida Black Bear
When it comes right down to it, the Florida black bear is considered an omnivore. This means that they’ll eat both plants and meat. They will ingest everything from plant material to insects, and animal matter. Roughly 80% of their diet will consist of berries, acorns, fruit, grass, seeds, and nuts.
Another 15% will go towards insects, while another 5% will consist of animals like armadillos, white-tailed deer, and raccoons. You might be surprised to learn it, but most animal matter comes from scavenging, not from predation.
[Related Article: Why Do Bears Like Honey?]
So, Do They Hibernate
Being that the biggest portion of this species lives in Florida, you’d think that these bears wouldn’t have to deal with cold weather or winter. Well, parts of Florida do experience winter weather.
Despite this, the Florida black bear does not have to hibernate to avoid the cold. They can remain active, however, they choose not to.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they hibernate, but they more go into what is known as a lethargic state. They do this because their food sources will be lower. A 700-pound bear requires as much as 20,000 calories a day. While the Florida black bear only weighs 250 to 300 pounds, you can still imagine that they have quite the appetite.
As you can see, the Florida black bear is a truly unique species. Just because it has Florida in its name and this is where the majority of the population is, it doesn’t mean it is the only state they are found. And, just because they can hibernate during the winter, it doesn’t mean that they choose to do so. In fact, they don’t.
They choose to remain active, just at a slower rate to help conserve their energy and calorie burn.
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