WASHINGTON (CN) – The Louisiana black bear has met its recovery plan objectives and is proposed for delisting under the Endangered Species Act, the Department of Interior announced.
The iconic bear is purported to have been the inspiration for the “teddy bear” because President Teddy Roosevelt spared one during a 1902 hunting trip. The story was portrayed in an editorial cartoon that inspired a Brooklyn candy store owner to create the toy bear, according to the proposal’s announcement jointly issued by Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewel and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Thursday.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is part of the Department of Interior. It is one of two agencies responsible for listing species under the Endangered Species Act (with the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Department of Commerce, for marine species).
“An America without the Louisiana black bear would be an America that has deprived its children of a key piece of their wildlife heritage,” Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin was quoted as saying in the proposal’s announcement.
The Louisiana black bear is one of 16 subspecies of American black bear, and is distinguished by a longer, narrower skull and larger molar teeth. Although the median weight is around 300 pounds, adult males can weigh as much as 600 pounds, according to the agency.
The bears were listed as a threatened species in 1992 due to habitat reduction primarily from agricultural conversion, and “human-related mortality,” or illegal killing, the action said.
Due to the threat of illegal killing, the American black bear was also listed at the same time due to “similarity of appearance.” The proposed removal of the Louisiana bear also includes a removal of the similarity of appearance protections for the American bear.
The agency attributes recovery to the efforts of public and private partners that included “researching the status of the existing populations, establishing additional subpopulations, and protecting or restoring more than 750,000 acres of habitat. A large proportion of habitat supporting and connecting breeding subpopulations has been protected and restored voluntarily through private landowner restoration efforts,” the announcement said.
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), one of the most prolific petitioning and litigating advocate groups for endangered species, expressed approval of the proposed delisting. “The Louisiana black bear is an Endangered Species Act success story,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the CBD was quoted as saying in the group’s reaction statement. “The bear has met recovery goals 10 years ahead of schedule and is continuing to improve.”
Fish and Wildlife requests information, data and comments on the proposed delisting, and on the available draft post-delisting monitoring plan for the bears. Comments are due by July 20. The agency plans to hold two public hearings in June.
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