The Mississippi Black Bear Project began in 2010 as a cooperative research program between Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
Our main target is to understand black bear recolonization of Mississippi. Specifically, we are interested in studying the spatial and temporal ecology of black bears, including resource use, habitat selection, dispersal, and corridor use. In addition, we seek to understand the reproductive ecology of females, and survival of new-born cubs and yearlings. As our knowledge increases, we aim to provide reliable scientific data to guide future black bear management strategies statewide.
Until the early 1900's black bears were abundant throughout Mississippi, even drawing President Theodore Roosevelt to the Delta region for the world class bear hunting opportunities. But due to unregulated harvest and habitat conversion bear populations sharply declined and in 1932 the newly formed Mississippi Game and Fish Commission closed bear hunting estimating < 12 individuals remaining. With repatriation and recovery efforts in neighboring Louisiana and Arkansas, bear sightings began to increase in Mississippi in the late 1900's and populations are suspected to be increasing. In 1992, the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) subspecies was granted federal protection throughout the suspected native range covering roughly the southern 2/3rds of the state.
Review the timeline below for additional information regarding the history of bears and bear conservation in Mississippi.
Prominent Events For American Black Bear Management In Mississippi, 1902-2014
President Theodore Roosevelt came to the Mississippi Delta to hunt black bear. Holt Collier was hired as the president's guide on this hunt. After a long pursuit on the first morning of the hunt, Collier offered a lassoed and injured bear for President Roosevelt to harvest. President Roosevelt refused to shoot the injured bear, stating it would be unsportsmanlike. This event led to the creation of the Teddy bear.
Mississippi Game and Fish Commission was created and closed hunting of black bear; bear population estimated at 12 individuals (Cook 1943).
3 pairs of bears released as part of a restocking program.
Miller and Kellogg (1955) designated the Louisiana black bear as a subspecies of the American black bear, Ursus americanus letuolus
Black bear included on the list of rare and threatened vertebrates of Mississippi.
Last reported reproduction before 2005 occurred in Issaquena County (5 bears observed including 2 assumed cubs of the year).
Mississippi Department of Wildlife Conservation classified the black bear as a state endangered species with estimated population of 25.
US Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned to list the Louisiana black bear as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Federal listing of the U. a. luteolous subspecies as threatened within its historic range.
US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the luteolus subspecies as threatened. All other bears occurring within the range of the U. a. luteolus were protected due to similarity of appearance. Protection also includes den and candidate den trees within occupied Louisiana black bear habitat.
First documented occurrence of reproduction in Mississippi since 1976. Adult traveled from Louisiana into Wilkinson County, Mississippi and produced 5 cubs.
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks published a black bear management plan outlining primary focus topics which include: education and training for MDWFP personnel, education for Mississippi citizens, bear research, managing human–bear conflict, human-induced mortality (Young 2006).
Two cubs known to have been produced from a single litter in Sharkey and Issaquena Counties, Mississippi.
Mississippi was granted funding through the US Department of Agriculture, National Resource Conservation Service (2011) for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Habitat Initiative to restore 32.2 km2 of bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands in 18 western Mississippi counties.
The flood of 2011 took a toll on cub survival in MS
The project initiated a joint effort with Christine Hoskinson, lead veterinary technician at Texas A&M, Kingsville, to monitor the health of black bears in Mississippi by analyzing blood samples taken during immobilizations.
The research team has tagged greater than 50 cubs in Mississippi by doing den checks on previously captured females.
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