Bears in Florida aren't just the stuff of Disney—the Sunshine State is home to at least three thousand black bears, including M13, pictured, a male captured in Highlands County (map) in 2006.
But due to human activities, bears and other Florida wildlife are increasingly isolated in remote patches of habitat, preventing them from moving freely through their territories and potentially leading to the local extinction of some species.
That's partly why, a year ago this January, a team of explorers set off on a hundred-day, 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) expedition to drum up awareness and support for a proposed Florida Wildlife Corridor, a strip of uninterrupted wild and rural land that would link landscapes from the Florida Peninsula all the way to Georgia. (Related blog: "Follow Carlton Ward's 1,000-Mile Trek Through Florida.")
The corridor would protect wide-ranging species such as the black bear; keep the watershed that drains into the Everglades clean and safe; and also maintain ranches and farms, which house much of the potential corridor land, Carlton Ward, Jr., a National Geographic explorer and conservation photographer who led the expedition, said recently. (National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society.)
"Despite very intensive development, we still have a chance to create a corridor that touches millions of acres of high-quality conservation land," Ward said.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor is gaining recognition within state agencies, Ward said, and formal recognition is a near-term goal.
Overall, the state's wild wonders are "really an untold story," he said.
"This is Florida—it's not just coast, beaches, and amusement parks."