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Course Outline

Hunting in Bear Country

The Louisiana Black Bear was removed from the federal threatened and endangered species list in 2016; however, it is still protected under Louisiana state law. As bear populations have risen in recent years, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are encountering bears more frequently as they venture into the wild. Many misconceptions exist about bears. The following facts will help you understand bear behavior and how to avoid conflicts with bears.

Black Bear Facts

  • It is illegal to hunt or kill the Louisiana Black Bear as the species remains protected by state law.
  • There are three distinct subpopulations in Louisiana. They are located in and around Tensas, Pointe Coupee, and St. Mary parishes.
  • Den season begins as early as December and stretches into April. Bear dens are found in trees or on the ground in a nest made of grass, leaves, and other material. Ground nests are oftentimes located in a slash pile or thicket.
  • If a female bear is disturbed off her nest or den site, she will return when the disturbance has ended. Always leave a nest or den and any cubs present alone.
  • A bear’s diet consists of 90% vegetable matter, including nuts, fruits, berries, and grass. Bears are opportunistic feeders, eating almost anything available.

Avoiding Conflicts

Black bears are normally shy and not aggressive toward humans.

  • Keep camp areas clean to prevent food, cooking, and meat odors that will attract bears.
  • Keep all garbage secured inside a building until it can be disposed of properly.
  • Discard gut piles far away from any camp area.
  • Avoid using bait in areas frequented by bears. If bait is used, use timed broadcast feeders hung out of the reach of bears to decrease bear activity.
  • Switch bait types from corn to soybeans to reduce attractiveness to bears.
  • If you are concerned for your safety, carry bear spray with you and know how to use it. Keep it readily accessible at all times. Bear spray is available for purchase from online retailers and some local stores. Do not try to substitute personal defense products such as pepper spray that are designed for use on humans.
  • If a bear regularly visits your deer stand, scare it away with a sling shot, air horn, or bear spray. As an alternative way to scare a bear out of an area, you can launch pyrotechnic scare cartridges such as screamers.
  • If you encounter a bear at close range, talk in a calm manner while backing away slowly. Do not run!
  • If a bear approaches you, stand your ground, raise your arms to appear larger, yell at the bear, and use bear spray if you have it.
  • If attacked, fight back aggressively with anything available. Do not play dead!

Press the play button (►) above to start the video.

Video Transcript

Transcript for Black Bears in Louisiana

NARRATOR: In 2016, the Louisiana black bear was officially removed from the threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act. This species represents one of many success stories that wildlife agencies, conservationists, and hunters can be proud of. For now, the Louisiana black bear is still protected by law and illegal to hunt or shoot.

Bears may occur in any parish in the state. However, most of them fall along the Mississippi River floodplain. There are four subpopulations that exist: in the Tensas region, Three Rivers area, Upper Atchafalaya, and Lower Atchafalaya, primarily in St. Mary and Iberia Parish. Bears' eyesight is not very sharp. However, they do have a keen sense of smell. It's in their nature to use this sense of smell to forage for food and investigate uncommon scent.

Standing on its hind legs provides a bear with the best opportunity to see and smell. As opportunistic omnivores, bears use all of their senses to investigate all potential food sources. For example, a bear may follow a person's scent through the woods to investigate that smell, but that doesn't mean the bear is stalking the human. Simply, curious behavior is in their nature.

There are a few types of behavior that you can encounter with a bear. First, nervous or protective behavior. A bear may huff by forcefully blowing air through their nose or mouth, or pop their teeth in a chomping sound very quickly. It's important to remember that this behavior is intended to scare away a threat. If the threat remains, the level of aggression may increase, or the bear will run away.

The second is predatory behavior. This is normally exhibited by a bear that intends to actually attack or is sizing up its prey. This is usually a long and drawn-out event where the bear is intensely watching and following. There are no documented cases of Louisiana black bears stalking humans.

If you're on a hunt and witness a bear, take a moment before doing anything. Just like any time we witness wildlife on a hunt or a trail, a moment of pause is often the first thing you should do. If you notice a bear is coming closer to your area, make your presence known. Speak loudly and let the bear know you're here.

HUNTER: Get out of here. Go on.

NARRATOR: Sometimes a bear won't completely vacate the area. Continue to make yourself known, and eventually, the bear will leave. If a bear continues to linger and comes within range, be prepared to utilize other deterrents, such as slingshots, bear spray, and screamer pistols.

HUNTER: Get out of here, bear. Go on!

NARRATOR: A few more items to review. Make bears aware of your presence. Sometimes bears will climb a tree or a box stand where a hunter is located if it smells something it likes or is curious about what is in the stand. Normally this bear is just curious and will run away once it hears you. Bears and feral hogs have similar profiles, so be absolutely certain of your target before shooting at what you think is a feral hog.

If hunting hogs at night, be aware that bears' eyes reflect light and shine where hogs’ do not. If you hunt over bait, use automatic feeders and suspend them so they are inaccessible to bears, or surround the feeder with an electric fence. Some bears can tear up ATV seats. If this is the case in your area, it may be a good idea to hang your seat in an inaccessible space. Do not leave gut piles near the camp. This is an attraction for bears. Remove gut piles at least a mile away from where you are camping.

Keep food and garbage secured and inaccessible to bears around camps. See page 126 and 127 in the Hunter Ed Student Manual for more tips. If you hunt in an area where bears occur, it is advisable to carry bear spray and know how to properly use it. Bear spray is available from many outdoor suppliers and online retailers. Studies show that bear spray is more effective at deterring a bear attack than a firearm.

For more information, visit or Bears are a valuable part of our ecosystem, and their presence can make hunting even more enjoyable if we understand their behavior and know how to prevent conflicts.


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