The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced late last week that the Louisiana black bear, which gave Teddy Roosevelt his famous nickname, has officially recovered enough to be removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
“President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today,” said Secretary Sally Jewell, who spoke about the recovery at the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. “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.”
Theodore Roosevelt earned his nickname—which he reportedly disliked—after hunting for the Louisiana subspecies of black bear in Mississippi. Members of his hunting party had trapped a young black bear and offered it for Roosevelt to shoot, but the president famously refused, finding it distasteful. The event was chronicled by cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman in The Washington Post, and later a toymaker sought to take advantage of it by producing a line of stuffed toy bears. From there, it quickly entered American culture and for better or for worse, Roosevelt found himself saddled with the nickname for the rest of his stay in office and beyond.
While Roosevelt’s legacy and the programs he set in motion have flourished, sadly the Louisiana black bear did not. By 1992, experts estimated that the subspecies had dwindled to as little as 150 individuals. Federal and state wildlife agencies worked with Louisiana farmers and landowners to restore more than 485,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests, building much needed habitat for the bears. Today, officials believe that as many as 720 Louisiana black bears now exist in the wild.
“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.”
Image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service