Sunday, January 16, 2022

Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition and the bears of the Nature Coast

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is traversing the state and is now in The Nature Coast are of Florida which stretches from Tampa to Tallahassee. For the most part, the area lives up to its moniker, with several large stretches already under protection as wildlife refuges and water management areas.

Even with so much bear habitat left along the Nature Coast, the Florida Black Bear hasn’t recolonized much of the land. Bears in the “Chass” population appear to be restricted to public lands west of the town of Crystal River, at the very southern extreme of the Nature Coast. Fifteen years ago, when the population was first investigated, they were facing the same plight. In 2011, state biologists reported that Chass may include only 11 individuals, showing signs of genetic isolation.

Expanding the range of the Chass bears is unlikely. According to the biologists studying the population, the key to their survival is to establish resident bears elsewhere along the Nature Coast to the north and then to improve and restore bear habitat in potential wildlife corridors. The idea is that those animals will use the corridors to find the Chass bears and breed there, providing at least a boost to the genetic health of those few remaining individuals.

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