The Louisiana black bear, the inspiration behind the famous “Teddy bear,” has been officially taken off the list of endangered species.
The removal came on Friday, almost 24 years after the species were classified as endangered; overhunting and loss of habitat were considered two principal causes the subspecies of American black bear were placed on the list.
In an event at the Tallulah office of the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said, “President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today. 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.”
According to a statement In 1902, President Roosevelt was on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi. After finding no luck for several days, his guides hunted a bear and tied it to a tree to make certain the former president did not return from the trip empty-handed. According to the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the president “took one look at the old bear and refused to shoot it. He felt doing so would be unsportsmanlike. However, since it was injured and suffering, Roosevelt ordered that the bear be put down to end its pain.”
Clifford Berryman depicted the scene in a cartoon, which was published in the Washington Post in the same year. The first “Teddy” bear, inspired by the very same incident, was created by a candy store owner and his wife from Brooklyn, New York.
As reported by FOX News, the species, which originally were found in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, are now restricted to eastern Louisiana. When the species was listed as endangered in 1992, there were only 150 bears left, the Huffington Post reports. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, currently there are an estimated 500 to 750 bears that live across the species’ range.
In a statement, Rep. Ralph Abraham said, “This is a terrific comeback story that reflects the dedicated work of so many people from throughout Louisiana, and I’m excited that our beloved Teddy Bear will be here for the next generation of Louisianans to enjoy.”