Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) personnel released a black bear cub today in the Red River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The cub was found near starvation last November in St. Mary Parish and has since been fully rehabilitated for return to the wild by Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) in Tennessee.
The cub weighed 15 pounds when captured, which is well outside of the 30-to-50 pound range the then 10-to-11-month-old bear should have reached. The cub now weighs around 90 pounds thanks to a healthy diet at the ABR center.
"The bear is returning to Louisiana a lot healthier than when he got here. We started him out on a commercial formula and yogurts. Then went to a more normal diet of lettuce, pecans and apples," ABR Curator Lisa Stewart said. "The last month or so we fed him a lot of food that is found more readily where he will be released such as a lot of greens and corn."
LDWF Wildlife Biologist Maria Davidson transported the cub back to Louisiana on April 24. The cub was immobilized for tagging and data collection prior to his trip home to Louisiana.
Davidson said the Red River WMA was chosen as the release point because LDWF is establishing a new population in the area and trying to introduce some coastal bear genetics into the population.
"It feels good to be able to reintroduce this cub to the Louisiana landscape where it belongs," Davidson said. "The Louisiana black bear is a threatened species, so each one we save is special."
The cub received minimum human contact while at the ABR center and lived for the past couple of months in a 12-foot diameter circular enclosure that included a den like setting while it was in the semi hibernation phase of the year. The cub also had to forage for its own food that was tossed over the fence.
ABR has released 78 bears back into the wild without any being reported as a nuisance by the public. Their goal is to make sure bears are wary of humans.
"ABR does a great job of rehabilitating bears for release back into the wild," Davidson said. "I fully expect this cub to live a long life and to exhibit normal bear behavior."
Arlen Carter, of Franklin, first notified LDWF after he observed the cub in his hunting area while in a deer stand overlooking a food plot at 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 14.
"I watched the cub and waited for his mother to arrive," Carter said. "After 30 minutes, I came to the conclusion that the cub was alone and called LDWF authorities."
Carter said he has hunted this same area for the last four years and has seen quite a few bears, some coming within yards of his deer stand.
"Situations like this are extremely rare and hunters should not assume bear cubs seen without a female nearby are orphans," said LDWF Wildlife Biologist Maria Davidson. "This cub was very small, undernourished and near starvation, which prompted the decision to capture him. Had he been in good health, he would have been left in the area."
Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Technician Tim Marcentel from LDWF's New Iberia office, along with student worker Brent Castille and WMA Technician Guy Patout, retrieved the cub later that day. According to Davidson, the cub had been trying to subsist on sugar cane stubble left in a harvested field.
Following the capture, the young bear was then transported to Baton Rouge, given emergency care and nourishment and then transferred to the ABR Center.
The Louisiana black bear is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
For more information, contact Maria Davidson at 225-765-2385 or firstname.lastname@example.org.