Sources and Patterns of Black Bear Mortality in Louisiana

Louisiana black bears (Ursus americanus luteolus) are protected under the Endangered Species Act and live in 3 isolated geographic areas thought to encompass nearly all breeding individuals for that subspecies. Management strategies to recover these bears continue to evolve without knowledge of any differences in demographic patterns among these populations. We summarized data on Louisiana black bear deaths to see if any evidence existed for differences in mortality patterns among the 3 subpopulations. Since June 1992, 34 of 75 (45±6 [SE]%) verified losses (72 deaths plus 3 live removals) were caused by vehicular collisions, including road kills (27), farm equipment (5), and train (2), which was the most common cause of death. Although this bear subspecies has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1992, at least 12 (16±4%) have been illegally shot. Nearly two-thirds of verified deaths have come from the coastal population, which is not believed to be as abundant as the population in northeast Louisiana. Also, mortalities in the coastal population were predominantly adult females, whereas subadult males dominated mortalities in northeast Louisiana. Given the frequency with which adult females have been lost from the coastal population, the geographic limits of suitable bear habitat, and increasing development, longterm viability of this population is precarious. Patterns of observed mortalities alone suggest that conservation agencies must develop area-specific management strategies for these 3 isolated populations.

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