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Louisiana Black Bear Reintroduction Program comes to a close

From the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

-- The multi-agency Louisiana Black Bear Reintroduction Program in east-central Louisiana wrapped up its ninth and final year this spring.  The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Black Bear Conservation Committee, Louisiana State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services were involved with this program.

Since 2001, the project moved 48 adult female black bears with 104 cubs from the dense black bear population in the Tensas River Basin to the now suitable habitat called the Red River Complex totaling 179,604 acres that includes Grassy Lake, Red River, Three Rivers and Spring Bayou wildlife management areas and Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge.

The reintroduction project was put in place to help rebuild the historic population of black bears in Central Louisiana.  The BBRP was also used to establish immigration and emigration corridors between the Tensas River Basin and the Red River Complex.

The female bears were moved every March with their newborn cubs, which are typically born in February of each year.  Because the cubs are so young and unable to travel, adult bears’ maternal instincts overcome their homing instincts, which would normally move them to return to their home range.  The female bears stay with their young cubs in the new environment, and by the time the cubs are old enough to move very far, the females have established a new home range and are comfortable in the new area.  

The adult bears are outfitted with radio collars and other state-of-the-art equipment that allows researchers and agency personnel to know the whereabouts and activity level of each bear.   Daily monitoring provides valuable information about how the bears are adapting to their new environment.  These bears are closely followed throughout the hunting season to ensure their safety.

The Louisiana black bear was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1992.    

Hunters on deer stands or walking through the woods in the vicinity might get a glimpse of one of these bears.  A deer feeder is also more likely to attract a bear to a deer stand and increase the likelihood of an encounter.  Bears are generally very shy animals and it is recommended that a person that encounters a bear wave his or her arms and shout to frighten the animal away.  

Hunters are reminded that killing a bear is a state and federal offense with penalties up to $25,000 and one year in jail. There is also a reward offered for any information leading to the arrest of anybody harming a Louisiana black bear.

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