How a tiny bear population keeps afloat in a landscape dominated by humans
UK’s research was intended to study movements and find patterns that might explain how a tiny bear population keeps afloat in a landscape dominated by humans. Islands of forest – bayheads, flatwoods, and palm-oak hammocks – are scattered throughout the region.
The largest stands of forest exist on a handful of private ranches. Lowland forests buffer the streams, such as Fisheating Creek, which flows east into Lake Okeechobee. Between the forest patches is a mosaic of natural and semi-natural grasslands, much of which is utilized as pasture, cropland or citrus groves. A network of roads also laces through the landscape. Development is most intense along U.S. Highway 27, which runs along the sandy scrublands of the Lake Wales Ridge.
The rest of Florida’s black bear populations exist on large, contiguous blocks of public land, such as Ocala National Forest or in the Big Cypress region of south Florida. Like the Highlands/Glades bears, the seven different populations are mostly separate from one another due to past human persecution and habitat changes.