Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge

“Tremendous Progress” on Louisiana Black Bear Habitat

November 22, 2011, 11:02 am

Louisiana black bear cubs and their parents use fallen and hollow trees as dens in bottomland hardwood forest at Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Janet Ertel/USFWSDeborah Fuller remembers the Case of the Traveling Bear. A black bear tagged in Florida ambled across Alabama, Mississippi and into Louisiana before wildlife officials caught him and sent him home. That was extraordinary. But Fuller, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Program coordinator in Lafayette, LA, says even bears that are homebodies must range far and wide for food and mates—up to 80,000 acres for males and 8,000 for females.

So, black bears were hard–hit in the last century by the conversion of their hardwood habitat into agricultural fields. By 1992, the Service declared the Louisiana black bear, which once flourished from east Texas into Mississippi, as threatened with extinction. The Louisiana black bear is one of 16 subspecies of the American black bear.

Nineteen years later, “tremendous progress has been made,” says Fuller, who is optimistic the Louisiana black bear may be taken off the threatened list in five to 10 years.

Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, established in 2001 in the Atchafalaya River Basin of coastal Louisiana, is the only refuge with the primary mission of preserving and managing Louisiana black bear habitat. On the refuge´s 9,028 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, bears forage for their staples—nuts and berries. Fallen and hollow trees offer them places to den during cold months when they are in a torporous state.

Read more at fws.gov.

Image: Louisiana black bear cubs and their parents use fallen and hollow trees as dens in bottomland hardwood forest at Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Janet Ertel/USFWS