On May 20th, 2015 the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed to remove the Louisiana black bear from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife Species due to its recovery. The Louisiana black bear (LABB) is one of 16 subspecies of black bear in North America. The range of the LABB is all of Louisiana, east Texas, and southern Mississippi.
The bear was listed as a threatened subspecies in 1992 due to loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, and threat of future habitat conversion. At that time, the LABB only existed in three breeding subpopulations. Bear numbers in these original subpopulations have increased and four new breeding subpopulations now exist. Three of these four new breeding populations are in the Mississippi Delta. In fact, habitat supporting LABB breeding populations have increased over 500 percent since listing.
USFWS contributes LABB recovery to active partnerships of many private landowners, state and Federal agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations such as BEaR. Since the 1992 listing, voluntary landowner-incentive based habitat restoration programs and environmental regulations have not only stopped the net loss and fragmentation of forested lands in the Louisiana and Mississippi, but have resulted in significant habitat gains.
USFWS review shows that threats to the survival of LABB have been eliminated or reduced and the best available science indicates that healthy subpopulations of the species will be viable for at least the next 100 years, with enough protected habitat to support breeding and movement of individuals between subpopulations so that the subspecies is not currently, and is not likely to again become, a threatened species.
The USFWS published the proposed rule to delist in the Federal Register on July 21, 2015 and opened a 30 day public comment period ending July 20, 2015. USFWS will now review and analyze the comments received and make a final determination, which could differ from the proposed action if information received during the comment period justifies such an outcome. If the USFWS determines that delisting is appropriate, that determination will be published as a final rule in the Federal Register. Upon publication of a final rule the delisting of the LABB would become effective in 30 days. Prior to that time, the LABB is still considered a listed species.
If delisting occurs, the LABB will continue to be monitored for seven years to detect any declines in the population. Additionally, LABB will still remain protected by state laws in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.