On Thursday, October 5, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission received an update on the status of the Louisiana black bear population. Louisiana black bears were listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1992. They were removed from the threatened species list in 2016, after State and Federal efforts addressed the primary threat of habitat loss and the bears exceeded recovery criteria. According to Carnivore Programs biologist John Hanks, the bear population in the study area has increased from around 600 bears in 2014 to over 1,200 in 2023. Louisiana black bears have also expanded their range. While they were once confined to three small subpopulations, they have inhabited new areas and sightings and incidents have been reported all over the State. In response to questions from Commission members, Mr. Hanks agreed that “We can certainly have a conservative harvest in limited areas,” especially in the Tensas River Basin. The Commission has requested that the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries develop a notice of intent to open a limited and conservative bear hunting season, to be considered during a subsequent meeting.
The Commission heard public comments from three individuals—Louisiana State Sen. Stewart Cathey, SCI Acadiana Chapter President Richard Kennedy, and Tensas landowner John Madden—in strong support of opening a hunt. The commenters noted the increasing bear population and increase in human-bear conflicts, especially in the Tensas area.
Commissioner McPherson thanked SCI for our defense of the Louisiana black bear delisting, calling SCI a “tremendous organization.” Since 2018, SCI has been engaged in litigation to defend the delisting and celebrate the bears’ success story.