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Louisiana Black Bear

Louisiana’s official state mammal, the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) is also the state’s most recent conservation success story. One of 16 unique subspecies of the American black bear (Ursus americanus americanus) in North America, the Louisiana black bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. Years of overexploitation from bear hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries and widespread deforestation from manufacturing of wood products and clearing lands for agriculture drastically reduced the population and distribution of Louisiana black bear. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of multiple stakeholders to monitor black bear population numbers, restore black bear habitat, and protect the subspecies for the long term, the Louisiana black bear has now recovered and was removed from the list in 2016. The Louisiana black bear’s recovery is a symbol of effective wildlife management approaches and the value of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Recovery

After the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a recovery plan for the subspecies which established criteria for its recovery:

  • At least two viable subpopulations, one each in the Tensas and Atchafalaya river basins
  • Immigration and emigration corridors between the two subpopulations
  • Protection of habitat and corridors that support the two subpopulations.

To meet the recovery criteria and reduce threats to Louisiana black bear, state and federal agencies, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and private landowners partnered in conducting numerous research and habitat restoration projects and in implementing regulations including:

  • Voluntary landowner, incentive-based habitat restoration programs and environmental regulations have not only stopped the net loss of forested lands in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial River Valley but have also resulted in significant habitat gains.
  • Public lands such as national wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands that support Louisiana black bear subpopulations are protected and managed in a way that benefits the subspecies. An additional 37,000-plus acres of land within the Louisiana black bear habitat restoration planning area has been permanently protected since 2011.
  • LDWF, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, developed a database that is used to track bear occurrences, captures, and mortalities to better manage subpopulations.
  • Black bears remain protected by state laws, which currently do not allow hunting of these animals. Because of these projects and regulations, the Louisiana black bear population is now considered viable over the next 100 years with sufficient protected habitat to support breeding and exchange between subpopulations.
Recovery PlanFAQs on recoverySubpopulation map


Population Monitoring

LDWF continues to conduct research to monitor demographic and genetic characteristics of the individual subpopulations of Louisiana black bear. Research projects include:

  • Annual non-invasive hair sampling to estimate abundance, rate-of-change, and apparent survival and investigate genetic characteristics.
  • Annual live-trapping and radio-collaring of bears to monitor changes in survival rates as well as mortality rates and causes
  • Annual winter den checks to monitor reproductive rates, combined with family group walk-ins during the summer to monitor recruitment rates (survival of cubs)
  • Annual tracking of radio-collared bears, confirmation of reports of sightings or human-bear conflicts, and non-invasive hair sampling to monitor range expansion.

Collectively, data from these projects will allow LDWF to monitor the status of the greater Louisiana black bear population and inform LDWF’s conservation and management decisions.

post-delisting monitoring planpost-delisting monitoring annual reports

Management

As the state wildlife management agency, LDWF has a responsibility to ensure Louisiana black bear subpopulations live on into the future. In 2015, LDWF released a management plan (link) that creates a framework from which LDWF and stakeholders can work to maintain a sustainable Louisiana black bear population within the state and ensure the subspecies remains a valued part of our wildlife community. The plan balances the needs of bears with the needs, expectations, and responsibilities of the public. Specific actions include:

  • Maintaining sufficient suitable habitat
  • Maintaining connectivity among subpopulations
  • Continuing to monitor subpopulation demographics to support timely, well-informed management decisions
  • Mitigating manmade causes of mortality to reduce unnecessary losses to subpopulations.

Although the subspecies has recovered in Louisiana, conservation challenges remain, especially related to bears and humans. Bears and humans can coexist—advancing research, managing human-bear conflicts, and promoting education are all integral to keeping the bear population healthy and the public accepting and tolerant of bears.

louisiana black bear management plan

— For More Information —

Contact Maria Davidson at mdavidson@wlf.la.gov or 337.735.8666.



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