After 24 years of dedicated recovery efforts, the black bear is back in the bayou. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it would be removing the Louisiana black bear from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
A proposal to delist the black bear was submitted last May, and spent most of the ensuing year in review. The decision to delist the species was published in the Federal Register on March 11, 2016. The announcement marks the end of the Louisiana black bear's 24-year run on the list. It is a subspecies of black bear unique to Louisiana, western Mississippi and eastern Texas.
Efforts to restore the bear's population required the assistance of many of the region's farmers and landowners. The majority of the Louisiana black bear's habitat falls on private lands, where the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with farmers to restore more than 485,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests. When the bear was listed in 1992, as few as 150 were estimated to be in Louisiana. Today, up to 750 bears are believed to live across the species' current range.
The Louisiana black bear has its own place in history, of course, because of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was the species of bear that he famously spared in 1902, which led to a political cartoon that would inspire the birth of the teddy bear.