Lousiana black bear de-listed
By Moosetrack Megan


Did you know there is more than one kind of black bear? There actually 16 subspecies, including one that made it off the Endangered Species List this week.

Here’s more from the USFWS.

 

The Louisiana black bear is the state mammal for Louisiana, and it is one of 16 subspecies of the American black bear. While the American black bear can be found across North America, the Louisiana black bear subspecies is only known to occur in Louisiana, East Texas and western Mississippi. Compared to other black bears, the Louisiana black bear’s skull is longer, narrower and flatter, with larger molar teeth.

By 1980, more than 80 percent of the Louisiana black bear’s habitat had been modified or destroyed, and on January 7, 1992, the bear was listed as threatened within its historic range.

On March 10, 2016 we removed this species from the Lists of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act due to recovery. Recovery was made possible thanks to the active partnerships of many private landowners, state and federal agencies, universities and non-governmental organizations. Since the Louisiana black bear was listed in 1992, 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 resulted in significant habitat gains.

Currently we estimate that between 500 and 750 Louisiana black bears roam the United States, approximately double the population size at the time of listing. We have used techniques such as live trapping, winter den inspections, radio telemetry monitoring, and DNA sampling to determine population size.

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Appearance

The black bear is a large, bulky animal with long black hair and a short, well-haired tail. Their weight can vary considerably, but males may weigh more than 600 pounds. The face is blunt, the eyes small, and the nose pad broad with large nostrils. The muzzle is a yellowish-brown with a white patch sometimes present on the lower throat and chest. Black bears have five toes with short, curved claws on the front and back feet.

Habitat

A black bear looks down from a tree with her cub.
Photo: Clint Turnage, USDA

The key habitat requirements are food, water, cover, and denning sites located across large, relatively remote blocks of lands. In the Southeast, remoteness is relative to forest size and the presence of roads, as these features reflect the likelihood of human disturbance. In general, the bigger the forest and the fewer the roads, the better the habitat is for bears.

Louisiana black bears typically live in bottomland hardwood forest communities of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. They den in trees or on the ground from December through April. Other habitat types include brackish and freshwater marshes, salt domes, wooded spoil levees along canals and bayous, and agricultural fields.

High quality cover for bedding, denning, and escape is of great importance as forests become smaller, more fragmented, and as human encroachment and disturbance in bear habitat increases.

Diet

Although they are classified as carnivores (meat-eaters), black bears are opportunistic omnivores (eaters of plants and animals) since their diet is largely determined by what food they can find. The most readily available food for black bears tends to be high in carbohydrates and low in fat or protein, although they prefer high fat and high protein foods when they can get it. This often comes in the form of the food and garbage of humans.

Black bears spend a lot of their time foraging for food, and the type of plant food eaten largely depends upon the seasons. In the spring and summer black bears may eat dewberries, blackberries, wild grapes, elderberries, persimmon, pawpaw, pokeweed, devils walking stick, thistle, palmetto, and a variety of fruited vines and soft mast producing shrubs. In the fall they eat acorns, pecans, corn, oats, and wheat, and some bears in southern coastal Louisiana have been documented visiting sugar cane fields. They also may occasionally eat animal remains.

Historic Range

GIS map of historic range for Louisiana black bear.
Louisiana black bear historic range. Credit: Robert Greco, USFWS

The Louisiana black bear once roamed throughout southern Mississippi, all of Louisiana, and eastern Texas. The historic range included all Texas counties east of and including Cass, Marion, Harrison, Upshur, Rusk, Cherokee, Anderson, Leon, Robertson, Burleson, Washington, Lavaca, Victoria, Refugio, and Arkansas; all of Louisiana, and the southern Mississippi counties south of and including Washington, Humphreys, Holmes, Attala, Neshoba, and Lauderdale.

Current Range

Currently, most Louisiana black bears live within four areas of Louisiana, including:

  • St. Mary and Iberia Parishes in south Louisiana,
  • Point Coupee Parish in central Louisiana,
  • The Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area and nearby in Concordia and Avoyelles Parishes in east-central Louisiana, and
  • Tensas, Madison, and West Carroll Parishes in northeast Louisiana.

Bears may be occasionally encountered in other areas within their range, as male bears sometimes wander long distances from the area of their birth. Bears have been sighted in recent years within many parishes throughout Louisiana, as well as in western and southern Mississippi. Public-access lands that provide the best opportunity of potentially seeing a Louisiana black bear include Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area, Big Lake Wildlife Management Area, and Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. Please consult, and adhere to, the respective public-land regulations prior to accessing those sites.






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