LOUISIANA (WNTZ) – A significant milestone in the conservation and management of Louisiana’s black bear population is on the horizon. Senator Stewart Cathey, known for his tireless advocacy for wildlife and the environment, has officially announced the impending launch of a bear season in 2024. This announcement comes after a dedicated effort to establish a sustainable approach to bear management in the state.

Senator Cathey took the opportunity to address the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, where he emphasized the necessity for a bear season. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time such a proposal has been put forward. Last year, legislation aimed at creating a bear season was in the works, but it faced legal challenges, leading to its postponement. Instead, Senator Cathey chose to collaborate with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to devise the rules and regulations that will govern this season.

The Black Bear, Louisiana’s charismatic but occasionally troublesome resident, has become a frequent nuisance in various parts of the state. Their presence has disrupted the activities of hunters and farmers, necessitating the development of a season for proper management.

This news marks a significant step in the evolution of Louisiana’s bear conservation efforts. Historically, the Louisiana black bear population saw a substantial decline by the 1980s due to habitat loss and overhunting. The situation grew severe enough that in 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) classified the Louisiana black bear as “threatened” on the Threatened and Endangered Species list. It was then that the LDWF, in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners, initiated a comprehensive recovery process that involved habitat restoration and active bear protection.

Since 1992, more than 750,000 acres of critical bear habitat have been safeguarded and restored. As a result of these efforts, bear numbers have shown a steady increase, with a new sub-population emerging. Recent long-term research has indicated the likelihood of the Louisiana black bear population persisting over the next century. This positive trend culminated in the delisting of the Louisiana black bear as a threatened species on May 21, 2016.

The overarching objective of the LDWF is to maintain a sustainable black bear population across suitable habitats in Louisiana, for the benefit of both the species and its residents. This comprehensive bear management and conservation strategy encompasses public education, research, population management, and habitat restoration.

Although the specifics of the upcoming bear season were not disclosed during the announcement, it is clear that the LDWF has been diligently studying the population and believes that controlled hunting can be accommodated in certain areas without endangering the bear population.

Today, Louisiana’s black bear population is estimated to be between 500 and 1,500 individuals, with most residing in the Tensas and Atchafalaya basins. However, in recent years, black bears have been appearing in various regions across the state.

As this exciting development unfolds, many are left wondering if other states will follow Louisiana’s example in implementing bear seasons. The potential for controlled hunting presents opportunities and challenges alike, with the utmost concern being the conservation of this iconic species. The future of Louisiana’s black bears hangs in the balance, as the state embarks on this new chapter in bear management.

For more information, contact John Hanks at 337-343-8325 or jhanks@wlf.la.gov.