Teddy Bears may soon go the way of dinosaurs. No, we don't mean those cuddly stuffed ones your kids have given up for cell phones. Teddy Bears are black bears, native to Louisiana, and named after President Theodore Roosevelt. He famously refused to shoot one tied to a tree, claiming it wouldn't be in good sport.
Call It a Comeback? Or Victim of Malpractice?
The historic population of the Teddy Bear had decreased 99%, and its habitat 97%. This landed the bear on the Endangered Species List back in 1992.
However, based on new population figures, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called it a comeback, and delisted the bear in 2016. But according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), this comeback will be about as short lived as the Sex Pistols without intervention. PEER filed a lawsuit to have the Teddy Bear placed back on the Endangered Species List.
"The Louisiana black bear is a victim of biological malpractice," stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein. She filed the complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of co-plaintiffs Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Sierra Club and its Delta Chapter, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West. "Delisting the Louisiana black bear was a premature claim of Mission Accomplished."
According to PEER, the population of the bears may have been overestimated. Even if they haven't been, PEER believes a sustainable environment for the bear has not been created, since the new habitats are not connected by a protected corridor. PEER contends that the population may likely dwindle without continued Endangered Species protection.
What Does Listing Get You?
If you're a Teddy Bear, being on the list gives you an invisible bodyguard. Generally, killing an animal on the Endangered Species List can lead to criminal penalties up to a year in prison and $50,000 in fines. Civilly, fines can be as high as $50,000. Being listed also gives you a good home. The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to adversely affect any habitat of a listed animal.
What's up With Teddy Today?
After an animal is delisted the Environmental Protection Agency is required to monitor the animal for five years, to see if it is indeed thriving. It is believed that there are approximately 500-750 Teddy Bears roaming Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas today, up from 150 in 1992. Hopefully these numbers continue to climb, and President Roosevelt's declaration was not in vain.
What can you do if you are concerned about an endangered species? In some cases, individuals can file forms to begin the process of placing an animal or the list. In many cases, however, it may be helpful to contact a environmental lawyer who can help you create the best case possible for your beloved animal.