Keep Louisiana black bear hunting ban in place
Nearly every American home has a replica of the Louisiana black bear.
At least, those homes with young children do. That’s because the Louisiana black bear is the species President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt refused to shoot during a bear hunting trip in 1902. The story of the “gentlemanly” pity the president took on the animal spread like wildfire at the time, inspiring the creation of a commemorative toy: the “Teddy Bear.” The true reason for Roosevelt’s refusal lay partly in the fact that, due to habitat destruction and over-hunting, the Louisiana black bear that had been cornered and prepared for the president’s kill shot was mangy, thin, and exhausted – hardly a fair match for an armed sharpshooter on horseback.
This habitat loss and over-hunting continued until 1992, when, thanks in part to the work of Sierra Club Delta Chapter members, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Louisiana black bears as a threatened species. Before the bear’s listing, experts estimated as few as 150 bears remained in their historic geographical habitat range.
The Louisiana black bear’s listing on the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife likely saved the bear from extinction. However, failure to use the best scientific data available and reliance on faulty scientific assumptions erroneously led to the removal
of the bear from the Endangered and Threatened Species list in 2016, despite the fact that it has not achieved recovery.
Fewer than 1000 Louisiana black bears likely remain in the wild, and the bear has lost 99% of its historic population and more than 97% of its historic range. These population densities are well below normal for a sustainable black bear population.
On top of this devastating blow, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is now considering lifting the current ban on Louisiana black bear hunting. This would be catastrophic for the species.
Experts agree the decline in black bear abundance can primarily be attributed to human disturbance, which includes habitat loss, unregulated harvest and poaching, and lack of management. Because of land drainage and clearing for agriculture, the original 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest in the lower Mississippi River Valley, which comprised a large part of the bear’s habitat, was reduced to less than 5 million acres by 1980. Because black bears have a low reproductive rate, the loss of female adults is also serious concern. Unregulated harvest
and illegal kill can depress population growth, especially when population numbers are low and separated from one another. While habitat loss surely contributed to declining black bear populations, mismanagement of harvest and poaching may have be a factor limiting recovery.
Delisting the Louisiana black bear was a premature claim of “Mission Accomplished,” and allowing the regulated hunting of the species would be catastrophic. We must be a part of the solution, and not a part of the problem, by continuing to prohibit the sport hunting and killing of the Louisiana black bear. We can protect this incredible species for generations to come.
Julie DesOrmeaux Rosenzweig, J.D.
Sierra Club Delta Chapter Director