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A biologist taking a health assessment for a tranquilized bear
Information icon Dwight LeBlanc with bear named “Liberty.” The bear was eating watermelons and corn and overturning beehives near Woodville, Wilkinson County, MS. Photo courtesy of Dwight LeBlanc.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wildlife services plays key role in Louisiana black bear recovery

Back in the old days – in the early 90’s – when the Louisiana black bear was first listed under the Endangered Species Act, the Black Bear Conservation Committee (BBCC) was formed and USDA’s Wildlife Services was a key component.

“We suggested to the first chair of the group that in order for recovery to succeed, they had to address the human/bear conflicts that would arise – both immediate and future conflicts – as a result of increasing numbers of bears,” said Dwight LeBlanc, Louisiana Wildlife Services state director. “Initially we wrote the conflict management section of the handbook and participated in the conflict management committee of the BBCC.”

In the early days, the conflicts were addressed by the BBCC staff, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wildlife Services.

“We spent many hours talking to landowners, trapping nuisance bears, and waiting in the dark, sometimes on holidays, to apply aversive conditioning,” said LeBlanc. That included trapping bears that were getting too close to people (bears don’t like traps), and applying conditioning techniques to dissuade bears from returning. They would also use try to scare bears away with dogs, noisemakers, non-lethal ammunition, pepper spray, electric fences – basically anything to make a bear’s life miserable in areas they weren’t supposed to be in.

Eventually, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided some funds to pay for supplies, and equipment.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries hired Maria Davidson, who organized a state team to address bear conflicts, and Wildlife Services had to address fewer and fewer complaints, except those involving difficult bears.

Currently, Wildlife Services has a full-time biologist, Henry Adkins, to reduce human conflicts with nuisance bears. Additionally, Walter Cotton helps Northeast Louisiana beekeepers, farmers and homeowners reduce challenges with increasing bear numbers.

Dwight LeBlanc and two dogs poke their heads out of heavy green vegetation
Dwight LeBlanc and two of Maria Davidson’s bear dogs (Sam and Sophie – parents of Dwight’s dog) waiting in the bushes for immobilizing drugs to take effect on a bear that had entered a coyote dog pen in Assumption Parish. The electric fence inside the fence kept the bear from climbing out of the pen and escaping. He was released after waking up, but far enough away from the high fence compound it would not repeat the mistake it made earlier. Photo courtesy Dwight LeBlanc.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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