Feds weaken protections for bears

The federal government is sending a group of formerly endangered bears back into the wild with fewer protections.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Thursday it is removing Louisiana black bears from the Endangered Species List.

The Louisiana black bear, found primarily in the southeastern United States, was listed as a threatened species in 1992, but has since recovered and no longer warrants federal protection, the agency noted.

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"Historically, black bears were widely distributed in the forested areas of North America, including Mexico,” the FWS wrote in the Federal Register. "Today, the status and density of American black bears varies throughout their range with some areas having large populations and others with smaller populations and restricted numbers.

"The Louisiana black bear was listed as a threatened subspecies primarily because of the historical modification and reduction of habitat, the reduced quality of remaining habitat due to fragmentation, and the threat of future habitat conversion and human-related mortality,” it added.

The FWS described the bear as a “large, bulky mammal with long, coarse black hair and a short, well-haired tail. The facial profile is blunt, the eyes small, and the nose pad broad with large nostrils. The muzzle is yellowish brown with a white patch sometimes present on the lower throat and chest.”

Grizzly bears could face a similar future.

The FWS also proposed Thursday to remove the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

These grizzly bears have also expanded their territory since they were listed as threatened in 1975, the agency said.