By: Glynn Harris
I saw my first black bear in Louisiana several years ago when I was on a deer hunt in Madison Parish. My host had dropped me off at my deer stand for an afternoon hunt when we looked down the foot plot and saw a bear.
Grabbing my camera, we slowly walked in his direction and as we closed the distance to about 100 yards, the bear stood up, checked us out giving me the opportunity to snap a couple of photos before he turned and ambled away into the thicket.
Two years ago, my wife and I were visiting the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge as we spotted a female bear and two cubs a few yards from our car. I was able to snap a few photos before they disappeared into the woods.
Seldom does a day go by that I don’t read on Facebook and see photos of bears all around north Louisiana, mostly bears captured on trail cameras as they take advantage of deer feeders, often dragging them to the ground and destroying them.
Property owners and those who deer hunt in the Tensas and Madison Parish area often see their hunting camps broken into as bears search for food. Many have long called for a hunting season for bears and are hopeful that the recent news coming out of Baton Rouge will reach fruition.
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is expected to vote in its November meeting on the possibility of establishing a bear season for 2024-25.
The situation regarding the growing number of bears has created spirited discussions from those who can’t wait for a season to curtail the numbers of bears that are showing up all across north Louisiana along with others who are opposed to the idea.
Is the possibility of a bear season something new for Louisiana? I found a listing of hunting seasons for Louisiana for the 1939-40 season that includes bears that could be hunted from November 1 through January 1 with a daily limit of one; season limit of five.
Reading comments by some in response has been interesting. One respondent wrote…”My family has had land on the Tensas River in Madison Parish since the 1930s and there was always bears there and they were always a nuisance.” Another wrote…”I grew up along the Tensas River and there have always been bears there. They are protected, they breed and they spread out.”
The protection of bears in our state has to do with the assumption that Louisiana black bears we have are a sub-species. Some argue that the DNA of our bears is the same as those in other states. A black bear is a black bear, they contend.
We know that we have had bears as early as 1902 when President Teddy Roosevelt came on a bear hunt to Mississippi and Louisiana. In order for the President’s hunt to be successful, a bear was cornered and tied to a tree so he would have an easy target. He refused the offer, news spread and as a result, the warm cuddly stuffed animal, the Teddy Bear, was named in honor of the President.
Will Louisiana once again have a bear hunting season? Will everybody be happy should the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approve? Some for sure will be happy but there are others who believe bears should forever be protected.
Next week we’ll discuss preparing bear for the table, processing the meat and hide, comments from some who love it; some who gag at the thought of eating bear meat.