All wild bears in the state are Florida black Bears (Ursus americanus
floridanus), one of 3 distinct subspecies
of the American black bear recognized in the southeastern United States.
While nearly identical in the field, the Florida black bear can be distinguished
from other subspecies by its highly arched forehead and its long, narrow
braincase. Black bears originated in North America, and have been here
at least 1.5 million years. Click to view the
taxonomic tree of Florida black bears.
Black bears share many common traits with all bear species. 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 may look slow because they walk flat on their feet like
people (called plantigrade), and travel with a shuffling gait, but they
can run up to 30 miles an hour. With their stout, heavily-curved claws,
black bears climb trees very well; these claws can be easily seen in
Baby bears are called cubs, and young bears in their second year of
life are called yearlings. Since bear cubs stay with their mother until
the summer of their second year, young bears may be called either "cubs
of the year" or "dependent yearlings" when they are still with their
mother, depending on their age and size.
Although black bears in western states may have several color phases,
all black bears on the gulf coast, including Florida black bears, are
black. The muzzle may be tan or nearly black, and blonde or white chest
blazes of all shapes and sizes are common.