The Louisiana Black Bear, a species currently under protection, is at risk of removal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species list.
The bear has been listed as a protected species since 1992. In that time, populations have been studied, and in some cases, have even grown. However, the species still faces threats of human-induced mortality from cars, trucks and illegal hunting. In order to ensure the survival of the Louisiana Black Bear, the USFWS must keep the bear on the Endangered Species list.
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In the original listing document and in the Recovery Plan, habitat loss was cited as the primary cause of the bear’s decline. “Human induced mortality” was also noted as a factor that was “currently limiting recovery”. As a result, the delisting criteria includes : Establishment of immigration and emigration corridors between the two subpopulations, and, Protection of the habitat and interconnecting corridors that support each of the two viable subpopulations used as justification for delisting.
Since there is no clear definition of a corridor, one has to question whether or not those objectives have been met.
The 1994 BBCC Restoration Plan states “known kills from tagged and radio-collared bears suggest that annual mortality from illegal take could be as high as 12 %." Jesse Troxler’s 2013 thesis from his work in the coastal population, states that 10% of those bears are killed each year in vehicle collisions. LDWF’s Louisiana Black Bear Management Plan states “This represents an average of approximately 13 bears annually that have succumbed to anthropogenic causes of mortality since 1992.” These sources of mortality are not reflected in the Louisiana Black Bear Management Plan.
Roadkill is clearly an important source of mortality for the bear, and it must be evaluated before delisting can proceed. Solutions, like a wildlife overpass over highway 90, should be explictly considered so that sub-populations have a protected migration corridor--which is required for delisting.
On a personal note, the only bears I've ever had the fortune to come across were shot dead or run over. I hope the service keeps the bear, so I can have a chance, one day, of seeing this majestic animal living in peace.
Scott Eustis is GRN's coastal wetland specialist