State bill would allow LDWF to manage growing populations
Three Louisiana legislators pre-filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session to allow a state bear hunting season by providing the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission authority to properly manage rapidly growing black bear populations in some areas of the state.
Senate Bill No. 86 was filed Monday, Feb. 28, sponsored by Sens. Stewart Cathey and Jay Luneau and Rep. Neil Riser.
The legislation states, “Beginning 2023 and every year thereafter, the commission shall establish a bear season. The commission shall define the dates, times and area for hunting bear and may use any of the following methods to manage the bear population: (a) Limit the number and sex of bears that can be taken; (b) Prohibit taking bears outfitted with a radio collar; (c) Prohibit the use of dogs or bait; (d) Establish a lottery system for the issuance of tags and for the opportunity to participate in the season. (e) Any other limitation the commission finds useful or necessary to man-age the resource.
“I have just heard from so many farmers, hunters, landowners and other citizens who have had countless issues with personal property damage and crop damage caused by the growing number of bears,” Sen. Cathey said. “The bears have become a real nuisance and have turned into a safety issue on both sides. It’s getting so a lot of fathers and grandfathers don’t feel safe taking their children and grandchildren in the woods because of encounters with bears. We already face enough challenges passing the legacy of hunting and enjoying the outdoors to our youth. Bears have no natural predators in Louisiana and they have little fear of human contact. They are growing in size and numbers. It’s not a healthy situation.
“This is also for the safety of the overall bear population,” he continued. “We have to create a legal method for managing their numbers just like we do other wildlife.”
Black bear sightings
The issue has been gaining attention for several years now. When a Louisiana Black Bear report Facebook page was established during this past hunting season, it quickly grew to more than 10,000 members around the state. The page states it’s purpose as “a place to report Black Bear sightings in Louisiana. We as hunters want LAWLF to use this information to hopefully open a black bear season Louisiana.”
The proposed legislation is bi-partisan, Sen. Cathey pointed out. He is a Republican while Sen. Luneau is a Democrat. Rep. Riser is a Republican. Sen. Cathey represents District 33 (Claiborne, Lincoln, Morehouse, Ouachita, Union, West Carroll); Sen. Luneau represents District 29 (Bienville, Grant, Jackson, Lincoln, Natchitoches, Rapides, Winn) and Rep. Riser represents District 20 (Caldwell, Catahoula, Franklin, LaSalle, Tensas). Those include some of the areas where nuisance bears are numerous.
“Look, this does not tell the LDWF how we should hunt bears or how many,” Sen. Cathey said. “It allows them to take a reasonable approach with responsible laws for proper management, just like with everything else in our outdoors. We can’t continue to ignore this issue.”
The upcoming Legislative session convenes at noon Monday, March 14, 2022.