Hunter Knowledge and Opinion of Louisiana Black Bear Restoration

Black bear (Ursus americanus) conservation and restoration in the southeastern United States have become conservation priorities in the past decade. The release of black bears into portions of their former range has been proposed in some states and initiated in others to re-colonize available habitats. To coincide with restoration of the federally threatened Louisiana black bear (U. a. luteolus) to public lands, we conducted hunter surveys (N = 518) at release sites and proposed release sites. Although public meetings were held with the region where bear restoration was proposed, < 60% of hunters were familiar with the plan to restore black bears to the areas they were using. However, approval of bear restoration was high (> 80%). Word-of-mouth was an effective way of disseminating information about the project, but there is concern about the trustworthiness of information the public receives. Public areas proposed as release sites for the Louisiana black bear are most commonly used by hunters, so opinions of these individuals is an important aspect to consider when determining suitability of a release site. Media resources (television, magazines, and newspapers) which can target a larger audience and disseminate factual information should be used to inform the public when performing wildlife restoration.

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