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Louisiana black bear, the original teddy bear, off threatened list

WASHINGTON - The Louisiana black bear, inspiration for the teddy bear, will be taken off the U.S. list of threatened species, the Interior Department said on Thursday.

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A black bear is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the State of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. REUTERS/State of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/Handout via Reuters

WASHINGTON - The Louisiana black bear, inspiration for the teddy bear, will be taken off the U.S. list of threatened species, the Interior Department said on Thursday.

The bear's population has rebounded from as few as 150 in part of Louisiana in 1992 when it was put on the list of endangered and threatened species, to an estimated 500 to 750 across their current range, the department said in a statement.

The resurgence means the bear is unlikely to be in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

"As I said last spring when the delisting proposal was announced, the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the Endangered Species Act,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

The revival of the Louisiana black bear was spurred by the protection or restoration of more than 750,000 acres (304,000 hectares) of bottomland hardwood forests, much of it through private landowners' efforts.

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At the time of the listing, the three known breeding populations were limited to the Tensas and Upper and Lower Atchafalaya river basins in Louisiana. Those groups have stabilized, and more breeding populations are forming in Mississippi and elsewhere in Louisiana.

The bear entered American popular culture in 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that was trapped and tied to a tree by his hunting party.

The incident was featured in a cartoon in the Washington Post, sparking the idea for a Brooklyncandy-store owner to create the “Teddy” bear.

The bear is one of 16 subspecies of the American black bear and is the Louisiana state mammal.

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