Monday, January 21, 2013

Florida Black Bears in Ocala National Forest

While hiking recently we had a few magnificent wildlife sightings and wanted to write about them here. In Ocala National Forest if you are lucky you can sometimes spot a Florida Black Bear and in this case we were blessed with such a sighting of not just one, but two! Read on...

Long Leaf Pine Tree Forest
It was near Lake Delancy in The Ocala National Forest heading southward on the Florida Trail towards Grassy Pond. It was in here in the middle of this section where we spotted a larger bear and it's cub by it's side. This area of the forest is mostly upland pine forests with rolling hills and mixed with scrub habitats throughout, perfect for bears and they are known to be here.

Florida Scrub Habitat
It was just past the scrub habitat where we saw these two bears. As we entered this part of the forest I knew if we were going to see bears this would be the perfect place.

The trail began to narrow with thick hammock and shrub plants on either side. Perfect for animals to hide in and as we came around a bend it was just up ahead about 75 to 100 feet or so where we saw a little bear walking against the brush on the trail it must have came out of. Then a moment later a larger adult bear come out next to it, this most likely was the mama bear. The smaller bear huddled up against the larger bear and both starred at us from a distance.

The feelings of fear and excitement rushed over me have you ever felt so vulnerable in nature? I did in this case and felt a fear like none other as I knew at any moment the larger bear could rush us to protect it's cub. With the narrow trail backwards was the only escape. Though perhaps it sensed that we weren't a threat as we both kept our distance and peace.

Florida Black Bears on Trail
Just as we spotted both bears together we hurried to get our zoom lens ready for snap shot. It was just then that a coyote jumped out in front of us! It darted across the trail about 10 feet ahead into the surrounding woods. It happened so fast I just caught a glimpse. It was large with gray and white coloring. Was it following the bears? We weren't sure, but just after this we managed to get a picture of the bears right before they slipped off into the forest.

Florida Black Bears on Trail
I reflected back on the sightings and can't help but feel truly blessed by nature for this sighting even though it was scary, I feel it was a great and valuable experience.

The Florida black bear is the largest native land mammal in Florida. It is believed that at one time there were as many as 12,000 black bears living throughout Florida. Today only about
1,500 black bears remain.


  1. You're lucky to have seen two of the remaining 1,500. I've only ever had one black bear encounter - in northern Georgia - and I hope I'm fortunate enough to see the Florida variety someday. The coyote is icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Awesome story and great that you got pics!

  3. We had some big footprints of one North of Farles Praire in ONF this past weekend. We must have just missed him (kind of glad)

  4. I saw one yesterday- sadly it got hit by a car near Jacksonville and was already death. Really would like to see a living one in the wild. To see more info please visit

  5. We saw two crossing a dirt road in the Ocala National Forest when I took my two kids there to get their OHV licenses.

  6. That is such an awesome experience!!! What time of year and time were you there? Trying to figure the best time to go. We are hoping to camp there in April.