POLL: Should the Louisiana black bear be kept on the endangered species list?

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The , the animal credited with spawning the phrase “teddy bear”, is to be removed from the federal list of wildlife following a two-decade conservation effort.

The US Department of the Interior said the “conservation success” of the bear meant it no longer required the of the , which bars any killing or removal of listed creatures. The black bear will continue to be monitored, however, and it’s expected that there won’t be an immediate return to hunting the animal.

Hunting black bears was very much in vogue in 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt set out to shoot a bear in rural Mississippi, aided by former slave and Confederate cavalryman Holt Collier, who had 3,000 kills to his name.

In 1992, the Louisiana black bear was listed under the act, which provided protection for the animal as well as restoration of some of its habitat. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

Roosevelt, a known big-game hunter, failed to locate a single bear until his assistants found one that had been injured by dogs that had tracked it down. The bear was tied to a tree and the president was invited to shoot it. But Roosevelt refused to do so, as he thought it was unsportsmanlike.

This refusal was depicted in a subsequent cartoon in the Washington Post, which in turn prompted a New York store to put two stuffed bears, called “Teddy’s bears” in the window. Roosevelt later gave permission for toy bears to be sold with this moniker.

The fortunes of the Louisiana black bear faded, however, with the species losing more than 80% of its habitat by 1980. The animal is one of 16 subspecies of black bear, and has a longer, narrower skull than other black bears. It is found in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, where it is the state mammal.

In 1992, the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act, which provided protection for the animal as well as restoration of some of its habitat. A total of 485,000 acres of forests have been restored for the bear, with numbers climbing from around 150 bears to as many as 750 now.

The federal government has determined that the bear is now not at risk of becoming extinct and that the restored habitat, along with growth in breeding pair numbers, will ensure its future.

Sally Jewell, secretary of the interior, said Roosevelt “would have really enjoyed” the recovery of the 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,” she said.

“As I said last spring when the delisting proposal was announced, the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the endangered species act.”

The delisting has not been universally welcomed, however, with some conservation groups claiming it is a politically motivated move to get hunting back on the agenda. The Sierra Club has said the delisting is “very premature” because there are inadequate forested corridors connecting bear habitat.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 10 Mar 2016.


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Dorothea Walker

Darn – I hit the "no" button by mistake, and now can't correct it! Seven hundred fifty bears is not a sustainable number for black bears, if, once removed from the endangered list, hunting (even limited hunting) is opened. The territory set aside for them is huge, and would allow many more bears to populate the area. Leave bear management up to Nature, and let their numbers grow!

Eugene Rae

How is it possible that in a country of over 320 million people it can be considered reasonable, let alone ethical, to kill an animal that numbers less than one 1000? The arrogance of humanity will surely be its undoing.

Michele Jankelow

A species comes off the list and it seems is open season for killing! I find in incomprehensible that in this age of education about animals and their lives that people still find it acceptable to call hunting a recreational sport and actually enjoy the horror and blood of it all! Truly defies belief!