The Louisiana black bear, often thought to be the inspiration behind teddy bear toys, is now off the endangered species list. But more care will be needed.
The Louisiana black bear, which inspired the popular stuffed animal “teddy bears” in the early 1900s, was taken off the Endangered Species List on Thursday after 24 years of conservation efforts, US officials said.
The Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus lutelous) was listed as endangered in 1992, when only about 150 existed in the wild. Their population had declined drastically due to habitat loss and over hunting.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service says between 500 and 750 bears live in the species’ currently range, which includes the forests of Louisiana and Mississippi. “Successful recovery efforts are allowing breeding populations to expand. As such, the bear is not likely to become in danger of extinction now or within the foreseeable future”, the institution has said.
The legend goes that in 1902, president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Mississippi. He was unable to find any bears to shoot until the third day, when aides found a black bear that had been chased and attacked by dogs and tied it to a tree for Roosevelt to shoot. Roosevelt decided he could not shoot the bear. The story spread in US newspapers and editorial cartoons, and inspired the creation of stuffed animals named “teddy bears” by a Brooklyn candy store owner.
Around the same time a German toy company had also started making teddy bears, although they were simply called stuffed bears. Naturally, the nickname caught on everywhere since it became so widely popular in the US.
And while there is no danger to teddy bears, their real brothers are still in risk. The black bears my now be off the endangered list and this is great. But it doesn’t mean that the care and efforts should stop. They should continue and be even more important since no one would want for the animals to get into the list once again.