Dec. 5, 2013 -- Two decades ago, the Louisiana Black Bear was on the brink of extinction, but today it is on the rebound. The latest episode of Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s six-part wildlife series Alive! In America’s Delta, Black Bear Comeback, documents efforts to save this iconic species.
LPB producers and photographers spent a year following Louisiana biologists on the forefront of the recovery effort, gaining unprecedented access to these threatened animals in the wild and capturing unique insights from those fighting to protect them. The new documentary premieres Monday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. on LPB-HD.
“Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists have proven time and again that species recovery is possible when staff time and resources are made available to make it happen,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “In this state that has been true for the alligator, the bald eagle, the brown pelican, white tailed-deer, wild turkey – and now the black bear.”
The Louisiana Black Bear, a subspecies of the American Black Bear, was immortalized as the inspiration for the “Teddy Bear” during an infamous bear hunt by President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt in the Mississippi River Delta in the early 1900s. Find out why this bear has captured America’s imagination and adoration for more than a century, and the lengths some will go to save them.
When the Louisiana Black Bear was listed as threatened in 1992 under the Endangered Species Act, there were estimated to be fewer than 300 of them left in the world. Today, innovative programs to reestablish these animals and restore their habitat through improved land management, high-tech monitoring and public education are enabling the recovery. And, through successful partnerships between LDWF, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Black Bear Conservation Coalition, and hundreds of private citizens, Louisiana Black Bears could soon be removed from protected status.
New studies documenting the bear population in coastal St. Mary Parish and Iberia Parish and another in Point Coupee Parish are nearly complete and will be a critical factor in making that decision. Maria Davidson, LDWF’s Large Carnivore Program manager, estimates that there are now between 500 and 1,000 bears in the state and the population is continuing to grow.
“Once that data has been interpreted, either recovery has occurred and it is a sustainable population or it hasn’t,” Davidson said. “I personally believe we have recovered the bear and that’s what the data will show.”
The results of the U.S. Geological Survey’s study are expected in early January, and once the data is analyzed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether the Louisiana Black Bear can be removed from the federal Endangered Species List.
Black Bear Comeback was produced by LPB’s Liz Barnes, shot by Rex Q. Fortenberry and Gary Allen and edited by Fortenberry. The musical soundtrack was provided by Emmy-winner Mike Esneault. Christina Melton is the Project Director and Senior Producer of the Alive! In America’s Delta six-part series. Underwriting support for the series has been provided by LDWF.
The LPB network includes KLPA-DT in Alexandria, WLPB-DT in Baton Rouge, KLPB-DT in Lafayette, KLTL-DT in Lake Charles, KLTS-DT in Shreveport and KLTM-DT in Monroe.
There will be an encore showing of the first episode in the series, Whooping Cranes Majestic Return, on Dec. 9 immediately following the Black Bear episode. Both shows will re-air on Sunday, Dec. 15 starting at 5 p.m. on LPB. Live streaming access to the programs will be available on www.lpb.org/live  on Monday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m., and both programs will then be available on-line through the end of December at www.lpb.org/alive .
Black Bear Comeback will air in New Orleans on WLAE- TV32 on Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. Whooping Cranes Majestic Return will air Jan.17 at 8:30 p.m. on WLAE.