Black Bear Population Growing In Louisiana

Findings Also Offer Hope For Texas Populations

Chester Moore Jr.,, Bear Hunting Magazine

Officials with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) have discovered a number of black bear dens on land once thought to be poor to marginal bear habitat.

LDWF officials said one den was located on a recently planted tract in Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

"The remaining four dens were located on privately owned properties enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program. This valuable program added 10 black bear cubs to the threatened population of Louisiana black bears," they reported.

LDWF officials said the Wetland Reserve Program is a voluntary easement program and since its creation in the 1990 Farm Bill, over 200,000 acres have been restored to wetlands in Louisiana. These properties now contribute to improved flood protection, carbon banking, and water quality, as well as wildlife habitat for hundreds of species

"The corridor was created with the expectation bears would use it as a travel route from one large forest tract to another," said Maria Davidson, LDWF large carnivore program manager.

"It was unexpected that bears would den and successfully produce cubs in these young forests. These litters represent the success of this cooperative habitat restoration plan."

Bear specialists have said one of the limiting factors in obtaining a successful black bear restoration program in East Texas would be a lack of mature hardwood bottomlands. Bears in the South typically use large trees for dens, but this recent discovery shows that the species may be more adaptable than previously thought.

Louisiana currently has an estimated 500 black bears between the dense Tensas and Atchafalaya Basin systems, which is considered excellent bear habitat. This recent discovery has experts hoping they can expand their range into other areas.

Currently, officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) are reviewing a plan to do a limited stocking of black bears back into East Texas. Bears were once a part of the landscape but a combination of habitat loss and poaching wiped them out. Over the last few years bear sightings in East Texas have increased as animals from Louisiana and Arkansas cross the border, most likely looking for a mate.

The TPWD proposal first released two years ago would involve stocking a few females with cubs into key areas of the region. Most wandering bears are males and if they were to come in from another state and find females they might be willing to stay.

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