Hi everyone, my name is Don W. Hardeman Jr. and I am a Master's student at the University of Florida.

The focus of my research at UF is on understanding the effects of the human-dominated landscape on the behavior of female Florida black bears.

I have worked around the country on projects involving wolves and beaver in Minnesota, Pacific fishers in the Sierra National Forest, disease ecology of raccoons in Indiana, movement ecology of Desert kit foxes in the Mojave desert of California, bats in the Eastern US, etc.

My research interests include movement ecology, spatial ecology, carnivore ecology and conservation, and human-wildlife conflict.

I am also a Black bear research biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

I enjoy live music, archery, hiking, reading, wildlife photography, cooking and baking, and good conversation.


I am doing this as part of an AMA series with the University of Florida/IFAS Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

You can see photos from my work here!

I will also be on the next episode of WEC podcast, Ecological Adventures!

Don's done now (after 12 hours--a marathon AMA!). If you want to learn more about black bears in Florida, check out the IFAS extension page on living alongside these interesting animals. --Rhett

Comments: 1096 • Responses: 68  • Date: 

ElTurbo411 karma

I have a cabin that borders state land, when I do work sometimes I leave the patio door open. My girlfriend says this is dangerous and a bear could stroll in and eat me. Is this a rational concern and am I being flippant or are the bears more likely to kind their own business?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs893 karma

Bears have a great sense of smell and they follow it. You always want to be cognizant of any attractants you may have around.

My supervisor was hiking out west and came upon a ranger cabin in the backcountry. He watched while a grizzly bear broke in and completely decimated the place. It crushed the sides of canned food with no effort and went so far as to eat the laundry detergent.

I would tell you to always be vigilant and listen to your girlfriend. Its one thing to have the door open while you are working in front of your cabin, but I would caution leaving it open when you are not in view of it. I would also carry bear spray in the event you have a negative encounter with a bear.

SapphireSalamander51 karma

and went so far as to eat the laundry detergent.

can the bear survive this?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs130 karma

I'm sure it did. More than likely it just cause the bear to vomit or have painful bowel movements.

chekhovsdickpic84 karma

Bears are ambulatory trash compactors so probably.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs104 karma

They will eat almost anything.

drjimmybrongus322 karma

You mention your interest in human-wildlife conflict. What is the simplest or easiest thing humans can do improve wildlife well being?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs745 karma

I would say not to feed them.

I know people think its fun and don't see the harm, but it has lasting effects. For instance, the consumption of anthropogenic foods can cause bears to become food-conditioned, which alters their behavior. They begin to associate areas like neighborhoods with an easy food source and will break into garages, vehicles, and houses to access these foods.

The worst case scenario is that someone gets hurt in the process. This type of behavior also results in wildlife managers having to go out trap and remove bears that exhibit this type of conflict behavior.

TopographicOceans409 karma

A fed bear is a dead bear in many places.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs249 karma

That is true.

vrtigo19 karma

As a follow up, what can I do to deter bears from rummaging through my trash and hanging out near my house? I keep my trash in the garage and only put it out on trash day but the freakin bears must know what day that is because they magically show up right after the van goes to the road.

I also left my garage open one Saturday while I was doing some yard work. Went in for a quick snack, came back out and found a bear in my garage about 3 feet away from me. No garbage or food in the garage that time, so I guess they were just searching indiscriminately. I have a young child and having bears in such proximity makes me nervous.

The whole neighborhood has these sorts of issues (frequent topic at HOA meeting), and it’s not like we’re remote or in the middle of wilderness. There are probably 400 homes in our subdivision and we’re right next to a pretty busy elementary school.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs7 karma

What part of Florida are you in?

Brokenface29286 karma

Whats the scariest encounter you've had with an animal?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs867 karma

I was sneaking up on a bear during denning season and we kept getting close to the signal, but could not immediately find the den. We found plenty of day beds where we could tell she had slept, but none had cubs.

We knew she gave birth, so the actual den had to be nearby. My boss and I crawled into this tunnel in the brush found more depressions that looked like dens, but no cubs. We continued to move forward and kept looking around when I turned my head and realized the mom and her cubs were about 5 feet away and she was staring right at me.

I wouldn't call that the scariest encounter, but it sure was interesting.

notanimposter1060 karma

I was sneaking up on a bear

Well there's your problem

IFAS_WEC_AMAs472 karma

It's all part of the job.

amdnivram83 karma

How did you decide what to major in for your career? Looking for advice as someone who got lost trying to become a primatologist/ ecologist and just ended up with an anthropology degree bs and debt.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs126 karma

I was interested in learning about wildlife from a very young age and it stuck with me as a got older. I decided earlier on that I wanted to be a wildlife biologist and I took the steps to put me on that path. The wildlife field can be a difficult one to break into regardless of age.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs6 karma

I've been able to get have some great experiences and get some good photos to remember the moments.


patb201536 karma

The fierceness of black bears seems like a movie fantasy.

There you had a sow bear with cubs and you were obviously hunting her and she was just watching.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs185 karma

All of my interactions with bears are research related.

When bears are denning with cubs, they are extremely lethargic. When e capture female bears in the summer, we process them and equip them with GPS tracking collars. We were able to creep in slowly and locate the den using radio telemetry. We do this so we can temporarily remove the cubs from the den and put expandable break away collars around their necks.

Female bears are in a different physiological state during denning and can become very unaware of what is going on around them. We have enough experience to be able to quietly approach the den, use noise to move them off if they don't do it voluntarily, process their cubs quickly and place them back in the den. The female is not too far away during this time and will follow the vocalizations of the cubs.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs271 karma

The fierceness of black bears is not to be underestimated. You should never take an encounter with a carnivore or any animal lightly. It can be dangerous work and we take every precaution to ensure neither the animal or researcher is harmed.

lazyrepublik11 karma

Why do you put collars on the babes? Just to track them as they grow?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs42 karma

It allows us to calculate an estimated survival rate for the cubs. As the cubs grow the collars expand and slip off. We keep track of how many days we know they're alive and incorporate that into a statistical model.

another-netizen127 karma

Question, what’s the biggest specimen you ever caught ?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs243 karma

I captured a male black bear last summer that was ~500 lbs. It pretty much topped out our scale as we weighed it.

another-netizen61 karma

Wow that’s a lot, do you mainly deal with bears or do you also look into other animals?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs172 karma

My position has always revolved around black bear research, but technically, I can work with other species. I hope to get back to that in the future, since working with a variety of species allows you to answer different questions and it keeps things from getting stagnant.

All of my time is currently monopolized by black bears. I didn't plan to work with black bears, but I'm glad things have worked out because they are a fascinating species to study. They always surprise me and rarely do they cooperate and behave in a way that I expect.

another-netizen56 karma

I see, thanks for answering my questions. Take care and have good day

IFAS_WEC_AMAs66 karma

Thank you for asking them. Take care.

Ancguy15 karma

Have you worked with ot know of Gary Alt from PA? Heard a talk by him at Katmai several years ago- very informative, and totally hilarious.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs29 karma

I have not worked with Gary Alt, but I have spoken with him on the phone.

FoltX110 karma

How do I become a carnivore biologist? I am in undergrad right now and am currently an environmental studies major.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs189 karma

That's a difficult question to answer. The wildlife field is a hard one to break into and once you start specializing the world contracts even more. Your first task is to not fixate on become a carnivore biologist. Become a good biologist with skills that are applicable to carnivore research. Find areas of ecology that can be applied to carnivores, such as spatial ecology, human-wildlife conflict, disease ecology, etc. Get as much field experience and as many skills while you're in school. It becomes much more difficult after graduation. What school? How far along are you?

FLR2115 karma

I'm not the original commenter, but I'm a 2nd year biology undergrad at a California liberal arts college. I'm interested in animals, ecology, and climate change. Any tips on resumé building or field experience?

Braden073281 karma

Not OP, but I graduated with a couple degrees in Forestry and Conservation back in '09 and have been working in the field ever since.

If your looking to work USFS, USGS, BLM or any other fed agency my recommendation is to aim low to begin with. A lot of people think they are going to starting work at a GS-5 level with just an undergraduate degree, when in reality they're probably going to be a GS-3. Secondly, applying for government jobs is excruciatingly impersonal and automated. Your applications and resumes won't even be seen by a person until they go through 3 different automated systems that shell applicants faster than a peanut factory.

Learning the tricks of Avue and USAJobs is the defining factor in getting a job with the USFS, USGS or other agencies. Your credentials don't mean jack if you accidentally missed a field in the application process. I quite literally lost out on a promotion for an entire year because I typed in a 1 instead of a 0 on just one of the dozens of pages of forms you need to fill out.

If you want to go private, again, shoot low if you have an undergrad degree. There are thousands of wildlife and general bio undergrads that are graduating every year and not many jobs available. This means the biology and wildlife fields are largely intern based and seasonal. I don't know a single B/S holder in an environmental or earth science that didn't spend years being underpaid for grueling field or lab work before they got their dream job.

One of the biggest things is that you need to branch out to find the work and not be focused on finding work in your area. All of my seasonal or intern based jobs required massive amounts of travel and being away from friends and family, usually for weeks on end. If you don't have any attachments and can move to a different state at the drop of a hat, you're in a much better position than most other applicants.

You can also bolster your resume doing volunteer work with local conservation or restoration organizations. Not only does it provide some work experience, but you can snag a few references that will look great when applying for jobs.

More than anything I think it is important to be humble and be willing to do work you probably consider "below" your education and skill set you developed in college. Almost every single person I know who didn't make it in the bio or earth science fields spent their years after getting their B/S applying for jobs they were qualified for, but competing against people with far more experience. Everyone I know who has made it has more than one horror story about sitting in the middle of a streambed as an intern counting fish, or maybe being up at 3am to sit in a dark forest alone listening for a specific bird call for weeks on end, all while being paid pennies.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs70 karma

Everything you've said is a reality of the wildlife field.

Slow-moving-sloth73 karma

How was working with bats? I'm both attracted to and scared of them.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs163 karma

Bats are interesting animals.

I've had the privilege to work with them on multiple projects, mainly for consulting firms.

Mist netting for bats is always fun and you don't realize how delicate they are until they get tangled in the net and you have to slowly remove them without causing any injuries. When you do catch one they make plenty of noise and try to bite you the entire time.

I have also done post-construction surveys to look at the effect of wind energy production on bat mortality. They do transmit rabies though, so you don't want to handle them unless you've been trained and vaccinated.

popsiclestickiest30 karma

I have also done post-construction surveys to look at the effect of wind energy production on bat mortality.

Not necessarily results, but what was your impression on the question of wind energy production's effect on bat mortality?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs73 karma

It definitely affects bat mortality. I've found dead bats and birds under wind turbines. You may be able to find some open access scientific articles on the subject.

harrisloeser16 karma

to your knowledge is anyone looking at sonic repellent to keep bats away from windmills? (some sort of emitter on the bats' wavelength") and are larger windmills/blades more "visible" to bats than mid-size windmills? tks for the AMA

IFAS_WEC_AMAs31 karma

I've been away from the world of bats for awhile, so your best bet would be to look on google scholar to see what research has been done.

basilobs8 karma

I love bats and went to a bat festival in Detroit last year. One presenter gave a really scary stat about wind energy killing bats. If course I can't remember what it was. Do you happen to know how many bats it's estimated to have killed and how comparable it is to white nose syndrome?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs8 karma

I don't but I would be interested in finding out.

FadyP6 karma

mainly for consulting firms.

I'm intrigued by this part of your answer in particular. I've literally just graduated with my B.Sc. in life sci, and it seems like all jobs/positions available require at the very minimum a Master's. How were you able to consult on projects with "only" a Bachelor's?

(I say "only" not in any derogatory sense or to diminish the value of a B.Sc., it's just that as I said, it seems like that degree is almost below minimum requirements in this field in 2018, which blows my mind.)

IFAS_WEC_AMAs12 karma

I was hired as a biologist for multiple consulting firms. You don't need a Master's to fulfill most of the responsibilities in this field. I had the experience they were looking for, so they hired me for the job. Because the wildlife field is so inundated with people employers can be very selective in their job requirements.

nedonath40 karma

Can you tell us a bit about what you are finding with your results? My research interests align with yours so I am very interested in reading any publications associated with this research project. Also, who is/was your research adviser at UF?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs68 karma

I still have a little more field work to do, so I am not completely done with data collection. I've just started digging into my data, so I don't have too much information to give in terms of results.

We know that black bears do respond to the human-dominated landscape both directly and indirectly. When bears start consuming anthropogenic food sources it alters their behavior and can cause them to become food-conditioned. This can lead to a whole host of issues, such as loss of fear of humans, etc.

I am working with stable isotope data at the moment and will soon be analyzing my bear movement data. There are currently no publications from my research. I am drafting the first manuscript to come from it now and am hoping to submit to a journal by the end of summer/early fall. What are your research interests?

nedonath36 karma

My master's of science is in anthrozoology and my focus was human-wildlife conflict and how to mediate these situations. I am also GIS certified and am looking to continue this focus by merging the 2 together.

I very much look forward to seeing your results some day. Is your research in a specific area? I live in the NW FL Panhandle and, as I am sure you know, human-bear conflict is a huge issue for this area.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs34 karma

My research takes place in the NE Florida panhandle. I've heard about the conflict in the NW area. GIS skills will serve you well. We use GIS tools to aid in wildlife research all of the time, so depending on your questions it shouldn't too hard of a task to incorporate it.

Manfrenjensenjen14 karma

That’s really interesting. In my city we’re crawling with black bears (just saw three in my back yard last night,actually)

There is rarely any kind of confrontation or attack until you get out of town and deeper in the mountains where the bears are less accustomed to human interaction. The ones around here are pretty relaxed, and boy do they love our trash.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs17 karma

What state? Every bear has different levels of tolerance for humans and the interaction you'll have with an animals depends on the situation and the individual animal.

Manfrenjensenjen17 karma

I live in Asheville, NC.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs24 karma

Y'all have plenty of bears. There was a large urban black bear project going on in Asheville. You should look it up if you're interested.

Manfrenjensenjen16 karma

We sure do, and yes, in our neighborhood we often see the collared bears from that study. You should come up sometime!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs9 karma

I would love to visit Asheville. I've heard nothing but good things about the area.

ookaseekapleeka5 karma

What techniques are you using for tracking bear movement?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs9 karma

The adult females are equipped with a GPS collar and the cubs receive a VHF collar. We use radio telemetry equipment to track them in the field.

justthenormalnoise37 karma

I'm in Central Florida and black bears are almost as common as squirrels. Is this solely due to habitat destruction, or are they reproducing at an increased rate for some reason?

Bat question follow-up: I also am fascinated by bats, and am so happy we have so many where I live. What besides erecting a bat house in my back yard can I do for them?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs40 karma

The Ocala subpopulation is the largest in the state. Bears have been protected for many years in Florida and that has allowed their numbers to rebound. An animal population will continue to grow if there is plentiful food and space. The main threat bears have now is being hit by vehicles while crossing the road. Females control the population. If you have high female survival and high cub survival your population will grow.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs23 karma

I don't know much about providing roost areas for bats, but I would say your bat house is just fine. Have you been able to watch them leave the roost at dusk.

Khal_Deano34 karma

What are your thoughts on communities that have developed a culture of cohabiting with black bears like in Michigan?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs47 karma

I would have to know more information. What exactly happens in this town?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs7 karma

I think humans have to find ways to live with wildlife, but it needs to be done in a safe and responsible way. If you build development in/near wild areas then you should expect to interact with the wildlife in those environments. It's important to be vigilant and not do things to draw wildlife further into areas where they can be involved in conflict which typically results in the the wildlife being removed.

SapphireSalamander30 karma

I've recently been reading Golden Kamuy and found a new fear of bears.

  1. how scary was this? . It looks like a cool picture tho, how was the experience?

  2. How do you take care of a baby bear cub? How long does it take for them to grow too dangerous to keep around?

  3. What's the most fun/amazing animal to work with?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs31 karma

  1. It was an amazing experience. We were walking out of the woods after a capture and we saw this large male walking towards us down the road. I decided to walk on the road and see if I could get a good photo and once the bear smelled me it stood up. It looked at me and I stared back and then it walked into the woods.

  2. If you're asking in general then I don't know. Desert kit fox and beaver have been really good experiences.

datdudedez27 karma

Aren’t black bears omnivores? More herbivore than carnivore?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs46 karma

Bears are omnivores, but they are in the order Carnivora, which also makes them carnivores. Bears are not considered obligate carnivores.

edgewater1522 karma

Go Gators! (Recent MS grad in parks, rec and tourism here!)

What do you want tourists and park visitors to know about black bears, aside from the obvious safety tips?

Where's the best place to see a bear in Florida (safely)?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs23 karma

I would want the public to know how incredible it is to see them in their natural environment.

It's been a privilege to work with them and they constantly surprise me. They are highly intelligent and I've been able to watch them problem solve in order to access food and move in and out of an area.

Ocala National Forest is probably one of the best places to see a bear in Florida.

I have been working in Tate's Hell SF for the last few years and during the summer you can catch them crossing the roads throughout the day. Summer is mating season, so they become more active as you get into July. The fall is when they experience hyperphagia, so they are also moving around eating everything in sight.

hex184819 karma

How aggressive are our native Florida Black Bears? I've been out hiking south of Tallahassee and have stumbled upon fresh tracks, but aside from one darting in front of me while driving my truck, I've never seen one out in the wild.

Any tips on what the general public should do if / when they encounter a Black Bear in the wild? Try and scare them off? Back away slowly, and head the other direction?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs39 karma

If you encounter a bear in the wild you want to make sure they are aware of your presence. Some people carry a bell on their belt so it makes noise. Make loud noise, clap, etc. Most of the bears have run away during encounters I have heard about. Never turn your back and run away from a carnivore. That can elicit a predatory response in carnivores.

drgngd14 karma

Can you give us a fact about black bears thats obscure or generally unknown? Also I love bears and am sad I've never got to actually interact with one :(

IFAS_WEC_AMAs28 karma

They are incredibly resistant to disease.

drgngd6 karma

Thank you for answering.Is it known why they are very resistant to disease?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs8 karma

I don't know the physiological reason as to why they are more resistant. You may be able to find some information if you look on google scholar.

scissorchest13 karma

I live about 45 miles North of Tallahassee, was curious about how prevalent black bears actually are in this area?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs19 karma

I don't know much about the area north of Tallahassee, but there are definitely bears in Apalachicola National Forest, which borders part of the city.

2_Smokin_Barrels11 karma

What dictates the bear's environment? I've seen bears in the panhandle near PCB. I've seen bears in the Appalachian mountains. They don't seem to inhabit the regions in between. Why?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs21 karma

Black bears are adaptable to many environments and historically they were found throughout a large portion of the US, in deserts, mountains, tundra, forests, etc. Typically, black bears like dense, forested environments with thick understory because they provide the necessary cover and forage.

The important thing to remember is that wildlife goes where they can forage. If an area doesn't have the necessary forage or habitat to sustain them then they will leave an area. The area you're talking about is called the Apalachicola subpopulation, which is where I am conducting my research.

Mksist10 karma

Not applicable to Florida necessarily, but we go hiking/fishing a lot here in the Rocky Mountains (CO). Some people are terrified of black bears, and some view them as giant harmless raccoons. Regarding bear-human interaction away from urban places, such as on trails, fly fishing, etc; is there any particular danger outside of females and their cubs? What about the presence of dogs in this environment?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs13 karma

I would love to get out to CO and work with wildlife some day. Bears can still approach people even if they don't have cubs. The important thing to remember in any situation is tat you don't want to surprise an animal. Make sure they know you're there. Some people carry small bells that make noise as they walk. Always be aware of your surroundings. Dogs can go both ways. Some animals get annoyed by them and others will run off when they hear the barking. Know your pet and how they react to wildlife when you take them out. I would also keep them on a retractable leash.

hnybnny10 karma

As an FSU student, i want to say something snarky but- nah i’m just kidding

What got you interested in, well, all of this? Or how did you realize this was your passion?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs12 karma

I was interested in wildlife from a very young age and always knew that would be my career path. It's always been a passion of mine and I decided very early where I wanted to go to school and the types of species I wanted to study. I've been told that a young kid having that thought process so early is not normal. It's worked out well so far.

BugsDrugsandBigHair8 karma

Greetings fellow Biologist! I know very little about black bears, and I'm wondering how they've been affected by habitat fragmentation. Are there populations of urban bears and forest bears that are developing different strategies or have they had an easier time of it when compared to, say, the Fl Panther? Thanks!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs8 karma

Bears are very adaptable and they are behaviorally plastic, so that makes them very successful in human-dominated landscapes. There are differences between urban and forest bears. I am working on research that will help elucidate some of these differences.

CH1CK3NW1N958 karma

Why black bears in particular?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs32 karma

I started working with black bears a few years ago and during that time the idea of staying in Florida to work on my Masters was presented and we came up with research questions I found really intriguing.

Black bears are fascinating because they are able to quickly adapt to changing environments. The human population continues to grow and black bears, as well as, other carnivores are starting to rebound.

This means more human-bear interactions will take place and its important that we know how those interactions affect black bears, so we can better manage the species.

Three_Dolla_Slice7 karma

How much is your annual salary? Does your career path pay well?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs18 karma

Wildlife biologists definitely don't get into this field for the money. Although, you can make a decent living under the right circumstances.

intelligenthillbilly6 karma

Question: I live in Florida as well, just south of Tampa, and I was wondering about the population distribution of black bears in Florida? Are there higher concentrations in southern Florida or northern Florida? Also, have you done a lot of data collection in the Ocala National Forest? I’ve seen bears there myself. Another question that may be a little out of your area of expertise, but still in the wheelhouse of carnivore biology, and that is about the Florida Panther. Have you had any experience with them throughout your studies? I find them fascinating and I believe that there habitat stretches a lot farther than Florida biologists believe. Well, at least the one I spoke to at FWC.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

There are seven bear populations in Florida: Eglin, Apalachicola, Osceola, Ocala, Chassahowitzka, Glades/Highlands, Big Cypress. OC, AP, and BC are the largest in descending order.

I don't work with Florida Panthers, so I would defer to the biologists in south Florida.

Kreutorz6 karma

What is your opinion on zoos?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs21 karma

Zoos provide a way for the public to learn about wildlife from across the globe. I don't agree with taken wildlife out of their natural environment specifically to house them in a zoo. If an animal can never be reintroduced to the wild then a zoo can provide a proper alternative to euthanasia.

gratzzz6 karma

Me and my friends have debated this. But are bears carnivores/ do they hunt, or are they scavengers, or herbivores?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs17 karma

Black bears are in the Order Carnivora, which makes them carnivores. However, they are generalists which means, they will eat almost anything. They are not considered obligate carnivores, so yes they are omnivorous.

Bears in certain areas will hunt, scavenge, and consume plant material. It depends on the species and the type of resources in their environment. Look no further than Grizzly bears in Alaska. They eat salmon, but also berries the summer.

redX0096 karma

Have you ever eaten their meat before?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs13 karma

I have not. Some people seem to like it though.

Mike_Durden5 karma

What do you feel is the biggest threat to sustainability for the American black bear population in Florida?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs7 karma

We have found that the 5 major subpopulations have increased from their lower numbers 14 years ago. We are working on research in the Apalachicola subpopulation now that will shed some more light this group of bears.

thelongestunderscore5 karma

have you ever gotten up close with a living bear?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs7 karma

Many times.

NotTheStatusQuo5 karma

How common is cannibalism in black bears?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs8 karma

I don't think it is too common. I know of a few instances of male bears predating on bear cubs.

maxotmtns4 karma

How can a non-academic become involved in wildlife research? I've always been passionate about wildlife, but it seems their are few opportunities to even volunteer to help.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

There are plenty of citizen science programs for wildlife research. In terms of just volunteering that may be a more difficult route if you have no background in wildlife or outdoors skills. The best thing to do would likely be contact your nearest state wildlife office and see what opportunities are available.

Waffle_bastard4 karma

Do black bears hang out in dry karst rock formations?

I want to check out some karst formations, but preferably avoid being mauled to death in a confined space.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs4 karma

That I don't know.

trouty3 karma

Hi Don - it's great to see an AMA that hits so close to home!

I grew up in and around Carrabelle, FL. I've since moved across the country but still get to spend some time there every year. The black bears that ventured over from Appalachicola Nat'l Forest grew to be a significant local nuisance in the past decade.

Being completely removed from the situation since then, can you say what/if anything is being done to mitigate damage on both sides of the issue - emptied trash bins, cars striking the bears and associated medical trauma versus the obvious averse effects on the black bear population itself? Is there anything a city can resonably do beyond bear bins and highway signage?

I remember a pretty big story in our part of town was a black bear family that frequented our neighbor's trashcans and a tree in our front yard we're almost completely wiped out by two back to back collisions on hwy 98. My family was devistated by this, as we always did what we could as far as reinforcing our waste bins and advocating for their safety in our neighborhood.

Anyways, that's my anecdote tied to your research. Thank you for doing what you're doing - it may impact more people outside the scientific community than you may realize.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

I've driven through Carrabelle, FL many times on the way to Tate's Hell and Apalachicola. The biggest thing you can do is secure your trash, and be aware of your surroundings. Hopefully, all municipalities in areas with bears will eventually pass ordinances that fines people for not securing their trash, but as bear populations grow they will inevitably interact with developed areas.

WhyHelloOfficer3 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA, Don!

With the continued sprawling Development in Central Florida, how much more critical is public land management going to be in the next decade? Do you foresee it finally getting a priority in funding to help manage public lands to provide critical habitat to apex predators like the Black Bear and Florida Panther?

As a Florida DEP 'alumnus' I saw year after year of budget cuts to the management budgets, where we couldn't even afford to keep on top of the backlog of prescribed fire. I have been out of that realm for over 5 years, so I am curious if the outlook is different today.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs4 karma

Multi-species management is a good thing, but my job has nothing to do with public land management, so I can't really speak to some of your question. Funding is always in issues for the natural resources field.

tyranosaurus_derp3 karma

Question, does a bear shit in the woods?

Serious question, have you seen anything that gave you pause for thought/concern in relating to our impact/interactions with bears? Perhaps things such as finding litter/food wrappings near where they den, or other items. Or perhaps even how they regarded you as an intruder near their areas etc, where they "natural" or did they seem somewhat used to human contact?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

I think it is important for people to secure their garbage and not allow bears to have easy access to anthropogenic food sources. Research shows that it can negatively affect bear behavior, resulting in human-bear conflict.


What's the public's biggest misconception about bears? Bats? Anything?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

Today the biggest misconception seems to be that bears cannot be both carnivores and omnivorous.

lddiamond2 karma

Why do you call a Black Bear a Carnivore, whne they are Omnivores ?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

Black bears are in the Order Carnivora, which makes them carnivores. However, they are generalists which means, they will eat almost anything. They are not considered obligate carnivores, so yes they are omnivorous.

Jmazoso2 karma

Do bears in fact poop in the woods?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

I can attest to that fact.

mcsniper661 karma

Can you give you opinion on raw feeding for dogs? I have been feeding my dog raw meat/organ meats with various veggies for 3 years and she has never been healthier. Her teeth, her energy and her eagerness for dinner time! I'm not questioning the validity, just would love a professional's opinion. :)

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

I can't speak to dogs. The thing to remember is that dogs have been domesticated and bears are wild animals. Florida black bears are predominantly herbivorous. They will eat meat, but it is more opportunistic than them actually hunting other animals.