Black Bears Relocated

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A mother bear and her three cubs have a new home today thanks to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and its partners, the Black Bear Conservation Committee, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.

The adult female was trapped during the summer of 2002 and marked as a potential candidate for relocation by graduate students from LSU. She made her den more than 60 feet above Bayou Macon in a hollow cottonwood tree on Epps Plantation lands, leased by Hard Bargain Farms, near Delhi and gave birth to her cubs, all three females, during the winter.

Maria Davidson, LDWF senior field biologist, said, "We had to extract her through the den entrance and drop her down with a rope and pulley." She explained that this is the first year since the program began that LDWF and its partners were able to access bears in trees; removing an adult bear from a tree den is a difficult task that requires extensive training.

Having the option of relocating tree-denning females has increased the efficiency of the project. "We were able to locate six bears for removal this year as opposed to two," said Davidson. "There were only two on the ground and four bears in trees," and that has helped the team achieve their goals "at a much faster rate." The March 26 relocation marked the fifth successful move of the season and brought the total of cubs to 15, including eight females and seven males. "This is the best year by far," said Davidson.

LSU research associate Shauna Ginger and graduate assistant John Benson undertook the responsibility of removing the 190-pound, unconscious bear from her winter home. Assisting them were biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, Maria Davidson and LDWF biologists Tony Vidrine, Sean Kinney and Jonathan Bordelon, and Black Bear Conservation Committee Executive Director Paul Davidson.

Once on the ground the bears were weighed and measured, and the new cubs were marked with microchips called passive integrated transponders, known by biologists as PIT tags. The mother was fitted with a new radio collar, then the family was taken to Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge in Avoyelles Parish and installed in a newly prepared den.

The relocation is part of an ongoing program to reintroduce Louisiana black bears, a threatened subspecies of the American black bear, to its historic habitat in central Louisiana. Over a five to 10 year period, up to 25 females and their cubs will be moved from den sites in north Louisiana to lands in the middle of the state in hopes of reconnecting geographically separate coastal and northern black bear populations. This collaborative effort is recognized as one of the most successful endangered species recovery efforts in the nation.