The Louisiana black bear, the inspiration for the teddy bear, will be taken off the threatened species list, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Thursday.
The species will officially be delisted from the federal list of endangered and threatened species on Friday. The bear was originally listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992 because of habitat loss.
The Endangered Species Act is a tool to help conserve the nation’s most at-risk wildlife. It has helped save more than 99% of the species on the list since the law passed 40 years ago, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“The recovery of the Louisiana black bear is an outstanding conservation accomplishment,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The ESA’s success in preventing extinction and recovering species is in large part due to the countless partnerships like these that it helps to foster.”
The black bear became part of American culture when President Theodore Roosevelt, nicknamed “Teddy,” refused to shoot a bear that was trapped during a hunting trip in 1902. This incident turned into a political cartoon that was featured in The Washington Post.
A Brooklyn candy shop owner, Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon and had his wife make two stuffed bears. The “Teddy” bear came to life and soon led Michtom to mass-producing the toys.
“President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today,” U.S Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said at a ceremony held Thursday in Tallulah, Louisiana.
The milestone highlights the successful collaboration of states, private landowners, conservation groups and federal agencies that worked together to restore the habitat of the bears, officials said.
“Farmers played a pivotal role in helping the Louisiana black bear recover, using easements and other Farm Bill conservation programs to sew together primary habitat corridors,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
When the species was added to the list in 1992 the population of the bears was as low as 150. Now it is estimated 500-750 bears roam areas in in Louisiana and Mississippi where conservation efforts have successfully helped expand breeding populations.
“This is a terrific comeback story that reflects the dedicated work of so many people from throughout Louisiana, and I’m excited that our beloved teddy bear will be here for the next generation of Louisianans to enjoy,” said U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham.