The House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment last week passed a measure requesting the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to study the feasibility of a black bear hunting season.
The measure (House Concurrent Resolution 85), sponsored by Rep. C. Travis Johnson, cleared the panel without objection.
Consideration of hunting the state’s official mammal comes as Louisiana faces problems with black bears in some areas. A hunting season would help control the population, Johnson notes.
He suggested that moving forward the legislation swap the word “hunting” with “management” to better reflect that the measure is an attempt to manage a continuously growing population, according to the Louisiana Illuminator.
The Louisiana black bear, a subspecies of the American black bear, was considered “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as recently as 2016, but has since experienced a population rebound. The state lists the black bear as a conservation success story on its official website, noting the successful population recovery after “years of overexploitation from bear hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries and widespread deforestation.”
The final rule filed with the Federal Register removing the Louisiana black bear from the “threatened” list notes that “threats have been eliminated or reduced, adequate regulatory mechanisms exist, and populations are stable such that the species is not currently, and is not likely to again become, a threatened species within the foreseeable future.”
Sen. Stewart Cathey introduced a bill last year to establish a black bear hunting season, but it was met with a flurry of opposition from the public. This year’s effort to instead pursue a study of the issue is meant to quell opposition by better vetting the issue.
The bill would require LDWF to complete the study by Feb. 1, 2024, though it does not specify what should be included in the study.
Now that it has cleared committee, the measure heads to the House floor.