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Louisiana “Teddy Bear” Removed From Endangered List

Conservation success story, Louisiana black bear removed from endangered species list.

After 24 years of conservation efforts, the Louisiana black bear has been removed from the endangered species list.

Protected since 1992, the bear was the inspiration for the famous Teddy Bear stuffed animal. It was listed due to massive habitat loss and overhunting. At the time of listing, only 150 bears remained in the wild.

The bear became a fabled part of American culture in 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid big game hunter, refused to shoot a bear that had been clubbed and tied to a tree by a member of his hunting party. Deeming the circumstances unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt wouldn’t succumb to what he deemed unethical. His actions inspired a cartoon featured in The Washington Post and the creation of the stuffed “Teddy Bear” by a Brooklyn candy-store owner.

"Drawing the Line" Cartoon by Clifford Berryman, Washington Post, 1902
“Drawing the Line” Cartoon by Clifford Berryman, Washington Post, 1902

Since the listing in 1992, wildlife agencies and sportsman have enacted conservation efforts to try to bring the bear’s population numbers to a sustainable level. Habitat restoration and breeding pairs have increased the population to an estimated 500-750 bears in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in an interview. “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. 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 U.S Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting the Louisiana black bear in May of 2015. The recommendation and subsequent delisting hasn’t been seen as a success story by everyone though. Harold Schoeffler, a local Sierra Club Group Chairman, who in 1987 sued to get the bears listed for protection think that there are not enough bears established over their historic range to be considered recovered.

“When we delisted alligators, we probably had 50,000. When we delisted pelicans, we had 28,000 or 30,000,” he said during an interview with the Associated Press.

The removal of the Louisiana black bear from protection under the Endangered Species Act is a testament to the efforts of sportsman, federal agencies and conservationists in keeping the legendary animal on the landscape of North America. While there may be conflicting views on just how many bears are needed to be considered recovered, its great to see the famous “Teddy Bear” succeeding in not just stuffing and buttons but in flesh and blood as well. Teddy Roosevelt would be proud.

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Louisiana “Teddy Bear” Removed From Endangered List