Rewards posted in La. bear deaths

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are posting $13,000 in cash rewards for information about the recent killings of two federally protected Louisiana black bears, a spokesman said Thursday.

A hunter discovered a 225-pound adult female bear shot dead Monday in a privately owned wooded area between the Atchafalaya River and La. 1 in Pointe Coupee Parish, Wildlife and Fisheries reported Wednesday.

The department said in a news release that someone using a high-powered rifle killed the bear between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. Another Louisiana black bear was discovered shot dead in Avoyelles Parish on Nov. 27, the release states.

Investigators don’t know at this time if the killings of the two are related, Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Adam Einck said Thursday.

A $7,000 cash reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person who killed the bear in Pointe Coupee Parish, Einck said.

The owner of the land on which the bear was shot, who leases part of his land to hunters, contributed $1,000 to the $6,000 reward jointly offered by Wildlife and Fisheries and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

A $6,000 reward has been offered by the two agencies for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed the bear in Avoyelles Parish, Einck added.

“This has been successful before,” Einck said of the reward offers. “We’ve had a couple shot in the past and people have come forward once they heard about the reward and we’ve been able to make cases based on the information they provided.”

Killing an endangered mammal is a violation of both state law and the federal Endangered Species Act. Violators convicted face fines of up to $25,000, six months in jail, and payment of $10,000 in restitution.

Col. Winton Vidrine, head of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement Division, said in the news release that his agency “is aggressively working to delist the bear and make a legal hunting season for them, but each illegal killing adds time to when that could happen.”

Anyone with information regarding the Pointe Coupee and Avoyelles bear killings is asked to call the Louisiana Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 442-2511, or use Wildlife and Fisheries’ tip411 program.

To use the tip411 program, text LADWF and the tip to 847411 or download the “LADWF Tips” iPhone app from the Apple App Store free of charge.

The Louisiana black bear has been on the federal government’s Threatened and Endangered Species List since 1992 because of over-hunting and habitat loss, Maria Davidson, manager of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Large Carnivore Program, said Thursday.

Davidson said there are approximately 56 bears currently living in a supervised habitat within the Morganza Spillway in Pointe Coupee Parish.

Davidson said another 300 black bears live on the Tensas River National Wildlife Refugee in Tensas Parish.

“We’ve been working on various projects since the early 2000s geared toward gathering the data necessary to prove we’ve met the delisting criteria,” she said. “We have to demonstrate that we have effectively dealt with the human-caused fatality rate for these animals.”

In the meantime, Einck suggested, as the frequency of bear and hunter interactions is likely to increase, hunters should carry bear spray and avoid bears as much as possible.