Examining Sense of Place and Florida Black Bear Habitat Use in Florida’s Northwestern Panhandle: A Social-Ecological Approach to Landscape Management
Type of Degreethesis
Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
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Florida’s Northwestern Panhandle is one of the last undeveloped areas of Florida coastline and faces potential alterations in the near future. These changes will have landscape level impacts, and this study aimed at understanding the potential effects to both social and ecological systems. From a social standpoint, human-landscape relationships and sense of place were identified and mapped within Franklin and Gulf counties. From an ecological standpoint, habitat use patterns of threatened Florida black bears were examined within Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest. Individuals’ attitudes toward black bears and preferences related to managing human-black bear conflicts were also explored. Study findings revealed residents possess strong attachments to the landscape based on a variety of meanings, black bears are using Tate’s Hell State Forest over Apalachicola National Forest, and residents’ attitudes concerning bears and conflict management preferences varied greatly. Findings will assist with planning for impending development and creating management plans that correspond with residents’ sense of place and local black bear habitat use patterns.