The Florida black bear has captured our hearts and continues to be an inspiration in our efforts to preserve and protect Florida’s natural resources, wildlife, and land. Highly intelligent, charismatic and majestic, the Florida black bear is an iconic animal, a symbol for our cause and the face of our organization. But besides being a flagship species, the Florida black bear is also an important umbrella species.
The Florida black bear is the largest land mammal in the state, but their size is not the only reason they are called an umbrella species. An umbrella species is one whose habitat encompasses large stretches of land containing many different kinds of plants and animals. Black bears are forest dwellers and require lots of room to roam. Depending on food availability, males can have a home range surpassing 100 square miles, while females can require 25 square miles.
In utilizing large areas of natural habitat, the range of the Florida black bear includes a variety of forest types including mixed hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, sandhills, and sand-pine scrub, as well as forested wetlands. Bears forage for different kinds of food within and between these forest types, depending on the season. Umbrella species require geographically large and diverse areas of natural habitat. These areas are home to many other threatened and endangered animals such as the gopher tortoise, Eastern indigo snake, and the Florida scrub jay. In sharing living space with these other species, the Florida black bear acts as a protective umbrella, ensuring the preservation of various animal and plant species living within those habitats. This biodiversity means a healthy ecosystem for all. Why should we as humans care about biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem?
In protecting the bears and their habitat, we are also protecting ourselves. In a fast-paced, technologically advanced society like ours where we are too often far removed from the natural world, this is sometimes hard to remember. Besides being peaceful places for recreation, the forests offer protection of our water sources and help provide cleaner air by breaking down and absorbing pollution. When bears are happy and thriving, all the woodland creatures benefit, including other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, plants, invertebrates, and even fish. But humans also benefit.
With human population growth and development on the rise, healthy habitat for the Florida black bear and the myriad other species under the umbrella decreases. To ensure the continued survival of all these species, it is vitally important to preserve and protect the habitat that remains. Keeping our focus on the protection of the Florida black bear is a good strategy not only because they are strikingly beautiful, but because their well-being is inextricably linked to the health and well-being of so many other species, including humans.[less=”Read less”]