Thanks to a conservation effort pushed by local landowners and farmers, the population of real-life "teddy bears" is bouncing back, reports the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Louisiana black bear has been on the threatened species list since 1992 after continual loss of its habitat since the '80s. By the early '90s, there were thought to be around 150 individuals left. Now, after a huge conservation effort, numbers are thought to be between 500 and 750 in the wild.
This push has mainly included collaborations between private landowners and governmental institutes to restore the land. These voluntary projects have created 303,500 hectares (750,000 acres) of habitat for the bears.
The Louisiana black bear is one of 16 subspecies of the American black bear (Ursus americanus). Despite the name, they can also be found in Mississippi as well as Louisiana, and were once known to stray as far as Texas and Arkansas. They may be cute as cubs, but these bears can grow up to 226 kilograms (500 pounds) as adults and will eat pretty much anything they can dig their claws into.
Clifford Berryman, published in Washington Post, 1902. Clifford Berryman/Wikimedia Commons.
According to the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the Louisiana black bear became the inspiration behind the teddy bear after a run-in with President Roosevelt. On a hunting trip in 1902, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt refused to shoot one of the bears that an aide had tied to a tree, believing it would be "unsportsmanlike." The story made its way into a satirical cartoon in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902 (above). A candy shop owner in Brooklyn, New York saw the cartoon and decided to place two home-made stuffed toys of the bear in his window, naming them "Teddy's bears." Customers quickly asked whether they were for sale and the toys eventually became a mass-produced, worldwide success.
In a statement announcing that the Louisiana black bear has now officially been removed as "threatened" from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said: "President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today."
She added: "Working together across private and public lands with so many partners embodies the conservation ethic he stood for when he established the National Wildlife Refuge System as part of the solution to address troubling trends for the nation’s wildlife. As I said last spring when the delisting proposal was announced, the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the Endangered Species Act."
Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell helps feed an orphaned bear cub at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. US Department Of Agriculture/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)
An adult Louisiana black bear foraging in the wild. US Department Of Agriculture/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Main image credit: US Department Of Agriculture/Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)