The U.S. government announced that the Louisiana black bear, the furry beast that inspired the creation of teddy bears, has recovered enough to pull it off the list of federally protected species.
The number of Louisiana black bears (Ursus americanus luteolus) has rebounded after 24 years of conservation efforts. It was listed as endangered in 1992, when only about 150 bears existed in its habitat. At present, about 500 to 750 bears live in the forests of Louisiana and Mississippi, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. These bears faced tremendous decline in population due to overexploitation and rapid habitat fragmentation.
Most of the black bears live on lands owned by private individuals. With the help of Louisiana farmers, the country's Interior and Agriculture departments helped reinstate more than 485,000 acres of forests in areas which are considered priority for conservation.
"Farmers played a pivotal role in helping the Louisiana black bear recover, using easements and other Farm Bill conservation programs to sew together primary habitat corridors," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
"By working together, we're able to achieve more conservation, direct resources where biological returns are highest and achieve a larger habitat footprint spanning public and private lands," he added.
During the time the black bears were listed, there were only three established breeding populations limited to Lower, Upper Atchafalaya river basins and Tensas in Louisiana. The population of these groups stabilized and more breeding populations formed in Mississippi and Louisiana.
"Since listed as a federally threatened subspecies, considerable work towards restoring the Louisiana black bear has occurred, and multiple state and federal agencies, research universities, and nongovernment organizations have played integral roles for bear recovery over the previous two decades," posted the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in Louisiana.
The famous black bear was introduced to the American culture in 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt declined to shoot and kill a bear that was captured by hunters. The Washington Post featured the incident and as a result, an owner of a candy store based in Brooklyn created the now famous "Teddy" bear.
"Working together across private and public lands with so many partners embodies the conservation ethic he stood for when he established the National Wildlife Refuge System as part of the solution to address troubling trends for the nation's wildlife," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. She added that the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the country and government agencies.
Photo: Charles Barilleaux | Flickr