TALLULAH, La. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today
announced that due to 24 years of dedicated recovery efforts by a broad
array of partners, the Louisiana black bear—the inspiration for the teddy
bear—will be removed from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened
Wildlife. The species restoration is a significant conservation success and
further demonstrates the value of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Jewell was joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary
for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills, U.S. Department of the
Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and
Parks Michael Bean, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Secretary Charlie Melancon, and other conservation partners at the Tensas
River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to celebrate the success.
The original "Teddy Bear"
The fabled bear became part of American culture after a hunting trip to
Mississippi in 1902, where President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a
bear that was trapped and tied to a tree by members of his hunting party.
The episode was featured in a cartoon in *The Washington Post,* sparking
the idea for a Brooklyn candy-store owner to create the “Teddy” bear.
“President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered
here today,” Secretary Jewell said. “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 delisting follows a comprehensive scientific review by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service of the bear’s status. The Service also released a
final post-delisting monitoring plan that will help ensure the bear’s
future remains secure.
Private landowners and partners play pivotal role
The majority of Louisiana black bear habitat falls on private lands, where
the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior worked with Louisiana
farmers to voluntarily restore more than 485,000 acres of bottomland
hardwood forests in priority areas for conservation. One key tool was the
use of conservation easements in these targeted areas, through which USDA’s
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked with farmers to
restore habitat on difficult-to-farm lands. This strategic approach became
one of the building blocks for Working Lands for Wildlife, a partnership
between the Service and NRCS to conserve wildlife habitats on agricultural
“Farmers played a pivotal role in helping the Louisiana black bear recover,
using easements and other Farm Bill conservation programs to sew together
primary habitat corridors,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “By
working together, we’re able to achieve more conservation, direct resources
where biological returns are highest and achieve a larger habitat footprint
spanning public and private lands.”
“The recovery of the Louisiana black bear is an outstanding conservation
accomplishment,” Director Ashe said. “Led by Louisiana and former Secretary
Robert Barham, along with Texas and Mississippi, our state partners and
private landowners have been crucial to this achievement. The ESA’s success
in preventing extinction and recovering species is in large part due to the
countless partnerships like these that it helps to foster.”
When the Louisiana black bear was listed under the ESA in 1992 due to
habitat loss, reduced quality of habitat and human-related mortality, the
three known breeding subpopulations were confined to the bottomland
hardwood forests of Louisiana in the Tensas and Upper and Lower Atchafalaya
River basins. Today, those subpopulations have all increased in number and
have stabilized to increasing growth rates. Additional breeding
subpopulations are forming in Louisiana and Mississippi, providing a
healthy long-term outlook for the species.
Research is key
The partners conducted research regarding the status of the existing
populations, established additional subpopulations and protected or
restored more than 750,000 acres of habitat. A large proportion of habitat
that supports and connects breeding subpopulations has been protected and
restored voluntarily through private landowner restoration efforts.
The Service proposed to delist the Louisiana black bear in May 2015 after
determining the recovery criteria, as defined in the 1995 *Louisiana Black
Bear Recovery Plan*, had been met and that threats to the bear were reduced
or eliminated. In 1992, at the time of the listing, there were as few as
150 bears in Louisiana habitat. Today, the Service estimates that 500-750
bears live across the species’ current range where successful recovery
efforts are allowing breeding populations to expand. As such, the bear is
not likely to become in danger of extinction now or within the foreseeable
“Growing up in the Sportsman’s Paradise, I’m proud to join in the
announcement of the recovery of the Louisiana black bear,” Louisiana Gov.
John Bel Edwards said. “The resurrection of this iconic symbol of our
nation and Louisiana shows the value of science and collaborative research.
It also represents a commitment to conservation with so many willing
partners from private landowners to state and federal agencies,
universities and non-governmental organizations coming together to make
sure the Louisiana black bear will be around for many generations to come.”
“As a former veterinarian and an avid outdoorsman from Northeast Louisiana,
I am so proud that the black bear has been removed from the endangered
species list,” Rep. Abraham said. “This is a terrific comeback story that
reflects the dedicated work of so many people from throughout Louisiana,
and I’m excited that our beloved Teddy Bear will be here for the next
generation of Louisianans to enjoy.”
The ESA is an essential tool for conserving the nation’s most at-risk
wildlife, as well as the land and water on which they depend for habitat.
The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of the species listed from the brink
of extinction and has served as the critical safety net for wildlife that
Congress intended when it passed the law 40 years ago. The Obama
Administration has delisted more species due to recovery than any prior
administration, including the Oregon chub, Virginia northern flying
squirrel and brown pelican.
For more information about the Louisiana black bear, visit us on the web at