Yes, we have bears in Florida! The Florida black bear is:
- a unique subspecies of the American black bear
- the state's largest land mammal
Black bears once ranged throughout Florida but now live in several fragmented areas across the state.
While the Florida black bear has genetic and skeletal characteristics that distinguish them from other subspecies, physically they do not appear very different from other black bears.
Black bears originated in North America, and have been here at least 1.5 million years. View the taxonomic tree of Florida black bears.
What Do Black Bears Have in Common With All Bears?
Like all members of the bear family, black bears are large, powerful mammals with rounded ears, short tails, 5-toed feet, and large canine teeth.
Black bears walk flat-footed, just like people, with all 5 toes on the ground. While they may look slow because of their shuffling gait, black bears can sprint at up to 35 miles an hour! Olympic gold-medalist Usain Bolt can only reach 27 miles per hour. With their stout, heavily-curved claws, black bears climb trees very well. These claws are non-retractable and can be easily seen in their tracks.
Although black bears in western states may have several color phases, all black bears in the Southeast, including Florida black bears, are black. The muzzle may be tan or nearly black, and some bears have blonde or white "blazes" on their chests in different shapes and sizes.