Advocates Rally Against Proposed Louisiana Black Bear Hunting

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In a fervent response to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ recent inclination to lift a nearly four-decade-long hunting ban on Louisiana black bears, passionate wildlife advocates have mobilized an online petition. 

Spearheaded by Jeff Dorson, the executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, the petition aims to counterbalance the potential decision to allow the killing of up to 10 bears this year. The petition, initiated in late December, has garnered over 7,500 signatures, reflecting a growing movement against the reinstatement of bear hunting in the state.

The historical significance of Louisiana black bears dates back to a pivotal event in 1902, which inspired the creation of the iconic Teddy bear toy. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a bear tied to a tree set the stage for a conservation journey. In 1988, Louisiana implemented a bear hunting ban, gaining added significance in 1992 when the black bear received federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. 

The pinnacle of these efforts was reached in 2016 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bear from the endangered list, deeming it largely recovered.

Current Debate: The Battle Over Bear Hunting

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Despite these conservation milestones, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is now navigating a path that could potentially reverse decades of progress. Advocates for coexistence emphasize the importance of educating residents to peacefully coexist with bears rather than resorting to lethal measures. The proposed hunting season, scheduled for December 2024, is confined to the northeast corner of the state. This area includes Tensas, Madison, East Carroll, and West Carroll parishes, as well as portions of Richland, Franklin, and Catahoula parishes. Proposed rules include restrictions on killing juvenile bears weighing under 75 pounds and females with cubs.

Proponents vs. Opponents: Managing Bear-Human Conflicts

Advocates for hunting argue that a controlled hunting season is necessary to prevent bear-human conflicts in rural and suburban areas. Reports of black bears encroaching into yards, rummaging through trash cans, and damaging crops have fueled their call for population management. However, opponents, led by Dorson and like-minded advocates, contend that resuming bear hunting seasons jeopardizes the species’ recovery.

Dorson argues that the state should prioritize coexistence education over lethal measures. Drawing parallels with Florida’s successful “BearWise” program, which focuses on wildlife-resistant practices to reduce conflicts, Dorson highlights the need for Louisiana to enhance its outreach and education efforts. The Florida program has demonstrated a significant reduction in bear conflicts in some communities.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has scheduled public hearings on the proposed hunting season in north Louisiana. This provides an opportunity for stakeholders on both sides of the debate to voice their opinions. The first hearing is slated for Thursday at the West Monroe Convention Center, followed by sessions in Delhi on Jan. 23 and St. Joseph on Jan. 25.

The Future of Louisiana Black Bears: Finding Common Ground

As the conservation community grapples with divergent views, the outcome of these deliberations holds the key to the future of Louisiana black bears. Advocates hope that a shift towards coexistence education will prevail, ensuring a harmonious relationship between humans and the recovered black bear population.