Louisiana black bear cubs (Brad Young, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks – used with permission)

Accepted scientific name:  Ursus americanus luteolus (Edward Griffith, 1821)

Description:  When contrasted with other black bears the Louisiana black bear has a longer and narrower skull and proportionately larger molar teeth. They have brown muzzles and typically long black hair, with some having white chest patches. Weight ranges between 90 to 180 kg for males and 55 to 90 kg for females.

Range:  The historic range of the bear included all of Louisiana and parts of Texas and Mississippi.  Three subpopulations remain in Louisiana.  These are in  the Tenas River Basin in the north, the Upper Atchafalaya River Basin in the centre, and the Lower Atchafalaya River Basin in the south of the state.  Additionally black bear sightings are on the rise in Mississippi, especially in the delta. Bear restoration projects are providing hope that breeding populations may return to the state and numbers and distribution are increasing in all three range states.

Historic and current range of Louisiana black bear (Credit: Robert Greco, USFWS)  Click on the map for a larger version

Habitat:  Found mainly in forest areas, particularly bottomland and other hardwood areas.

Status:  The Louisiana black bear was the only subspecies of the American black bear which was listed as “Threatened” in the U.S. Endangered Species List, having been listed in 1992. The listing was removed, controversially, in 2016.  At that time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service estimated that there were between 500 and 750 of the bears. As of October 2018 legal action was underway in an attempt to have the delisting decision reversed.

Life span:  Around 20 years in the wild.

Food:  Omnivorous, eating nuts, acorns, fruit, berries, grasses and forbs,  ants, larvae and small mammals.  Will take carrion when found.

Behaviour:  Whilst some females breed at three years of age most first breed at four years.  Birth is in the hibernation den in late January or early February with litters ranging from one to three cubs and occasionally four.   The bears often overwinter in hollow cypress trees in or along sloughs, lakes or riverbanks in bottomland hardwoods.

Threats:  The main threats to the subspecies are habitat loss and fragmentation caused by the conversion of bottomland and hardwoods to agriculture.  Remnant bottomland hardwoods are now protected and some marginal farmland is being replanted with hardwood trees.  Conflict with humans is increasing.

Compiled largely from information supplied by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Species Profile

After Louisiana black bear delisted as threatened species, bear lawsuit heats up

Page updated 20 February 2021