Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
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We Have Some Big News

By: Kyle Grammatica

We are thrilled to share our redesigned Conserve Wildlife license plate with you! The plate, affectionately called the “bear plate,” has generated over $9,500,000 for conservation since 2000. With the new design, we hope to fund even more innovative projects!

Defenders of Wildlife was instrumental in the establishment of the original plate, and gave invaluable help on the new design. We also received input from current plate holders, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists, and you. The new plate still features the charismatic Florida black bear, but some avian additions have joined.  A swallow-tailed kite can be seen dancing in the sky while an egret surveys the scene. And you can almost hear the pileated woodpecker hammering away. All these animals are nestled in a beautiful wetland habitat surrounded by native Florida vegetation. When you buy the bear plate, you’re not only getting a great design. Your purchase directly supports conservation projects that benefit Florida’s native species, from black bears and indigo snakes to Florida grasshopper sparrows.

Your plate at work

Florida panthers are an iconic species that have galvanized efforts to prevent their extinction. Recently, a new neuromuscular disorder has been found to threaten their recovery, along with the health of bobcats. The disorder, named feline leukomyelopathy (FLM), was first recognized in 2018; as of March 2021 there have been 11 confirmed cases (eight bobcats, three Florida panthers) and 37 probable cases (19 panthers, 18 bobcats). Animals with the disorder have difficulty coordinating their hind limbs; extreme cases have led to the animal’s death. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working to understand the causes of FLM, and the Foundation recently provided two grants totaling $291,000 to support their efforts. The Foundation’s grants have allowed FWC to collect data via trail cameras, analyze the video data, and perform diagnostic tests.

The Foundation has also provided substantial support for the conservation of the Florida grasshopper sparrow, North America’s most endangered bird. Their decline has largely been due to the degradation and destruction of the sparrow’s dry prairie habitat in central Florida. Without intervention, this species would likely be extinct. Since 2019, over $300,000 in Conserve Wildlife plate funding has been used for the captive breeding and release of grasshopper sparrows. The breeding project has seen great results and two-thirds of all wild Florida grasshopper sparrows fledged in 2020 came from nests with at least one Foundation-funded, captive-bred parent.

Bear plate funding has also been used to reduce human-wildlife conflict, especially conflict with black bears. The Foundation has given over $600,000 to purchase bear-resistant dumpsters and trash cans in areas with high bear activity in cooperation with local governments, residents, and businesses. Using bear-resistant trash cans keeps bears away from residential property and lessens the chance of them losing their natural aversion to humans, protecting people, pets, and bears.

To fund high-impact projects like these, purchase the new plate! For every plate purchased, $25 is donated for conservation. You can order yours online here, or pick one up at your local tax collector’s office.

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