A Bear Needs a Forest
View a beary silly video to see what happens when black bears get cut off from their habitat.
From a bear’s point of view, it’s always been quite simple. He visits his territory in Central Florida’s Wekiva River Basin for a while, but – when fresh food ripens in the Ocala National Forest – he’s apt to just mosey on up there. In 2011, however, nothing is so simple. Now his path is likely to be crisscrossed with roads and speeding cars, or pocketed with residential neighborhoods and strip malls.
However, with your help the Conservancy recently was able to purchase and permanently protect a key piece of land — Hollywood Pines — within Florida’s most important bear connector. This is what the Conservancy does best: work locally, on the ground to preserve native habitat for threatened creatures.
For a million years, our black bear has ambled through Florida’s vast forests, leisurely snacking on berries, insects and acorns. (He became enamored with doughnuts only recently; go figure.)
The fact is that bears require large, intact and connected landscapes to survive in the wild. The adult male Florida black bear may wander through as many as 120 square miles of forest in search of seasonal food and a mate.
Some people fear bears, or get angry when bears come into their neighborhood. But it’s humans who have invaded bear territory and isolate these primordial beasts within rapidly shrinking habitats. When a bear can’t travel from Point A to Point B, he is not only forced into contact with people but will also become further isolated from other bears and may risk local extinction.
Florida’s most important remaining bear population lives in north-central Florida, traveling within ancient forests that humans call the Ocala National Forest and Wekiva River Basin. Local bears have always just called this area “home.” The Nature Conservancy has identified a pathway between these two areas that appears critical to the bears’ survival. Hollywood Pines, an undeveloped 631-acre tract located just west of the St. Johns River, is within that pathway. See a map of Hollywood Pines.
“We secured an option to buy this significant piece of land and, with your help, successfully closed the deal,” says Rebecca Perry, the Conservancy’s Central Florida protection manager.
Conservancy staff has worked for years with university scientists and partners from wildlife agencies to determine the region’s best and most cost-effective wildlife connectors within the Wekiva-Ocala ecosystem. A digital map was layered with more than a decade of carefully tracked bear pathways. Future development issues were also considered, as well as hotspots where bears and vehicles often collide.
“As a result, a 20-mile long greenway that runs between the Ocala National Forest and Wekiva River Basin was identified as being the best candidate for permanent protection,” Perry continues. “Much effort has already been put into conserving this greenway, but Hollywood Pines was one of two significant tracts of land remaining in need of protection.”
With your help and working with a generous and conservation-minded landowner, the Conservancy was able to purchase and permanently protect Hollywood Pines in spring 2011.
In 50, 100 or 200 years, will our black bear still roam Florida’s forests? Thanks to your support, Hollywood Pines will offer him one safe pathway, forever! Help us with similar projects in Florida.