When Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a trapped black bear in the woods of Louisiana, a political cartoonist sketched the scene in the Washington Post. The year was 1907 and the compassion shown by this seasoned outdoorsman and leader of the nation inspired the first “teddy bear” stuffed animal. 

This week the Louisiana black bear that inspired the furry best friend for children everywhere was removed from the endangered species list, but not without some controversy from environmental groups. 

US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell heralded the “recovery of a species,” but several conservation activists who have worked to protect the bears told the Associated Press they had their doubts.

Estimates put the number of Louisiana black bears at 700. Local Sierra Club chairman Harold Schoeffler compared that to alligators and pelicans where they had 50,000 and 30,000 when they were de-listed.

Louisiana black bears were once driven to as low as 100 in number. In 1960, a species of Minnesota black bear were introduced to the northern section of the state, which have now morphed into their own subspecies.

In 1987, Schoeffler and others sued the federal government for endangered species listing, which put the animal on the list to begin with. Now that the species is removed, management will rest with the state where they fear regulation may not be as stringent. 

Even Secreatory Jewell acknowledged work is left to be done. 

“The work’s not over,” she told the Associated Press. “The work’s really just beginning to bring back more of these hardwoods so Louisiana can help enjoy the kinds of animals that Teddy Roosevelt saw when he was here at the turn of the century.”

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