The Bear Necessities of Wetlands

May is American Wetlands Month, a chance to recognize and celebrate the ways in which wetlands, and their inhabitants, enrich both the environment and human communities. 

Imagine visiting your local wetland, exploring this intersection of land and water, and stumbling across a big black bear. Such an encounter would be considered exceptional in modern times, but this scenario was a reality not too long ago in wetlands across the southeastern United States.

These water-saturated habitats support a variety of animals, including black bears. Black bears rely on wetland habitats to find shelter and safely raise their cubs. They can roam hundreds of miles across their large territories through large tracts of wetland habitat, which used to cover the southeastern United States.

However, the disappearance of coastal wetland habitats contributed to the black bear’s decline, with as few as 100 individuals remaining in Louisiana in 1950, according to one study. The loss of these crucial environments can be devastating to black bear populations, which depend on wetland habitats to survive. 

Now the fate of the black bear is beginning to change, largely thanks to wetland restoration initiatives. Many communities are joining the cause to bring back their wetlands. The number of wetlands being restored is increasing, aiding in the recovery of native wildlife. This has led to a steady revival of the Louisiana black bear population, which now consists of at least 500 black bears. However, there is still a long way to go to restore US wetlands as a whole. 

Wetlands are critical, not only for black bears and other wildlife, but also for people. They protect coastal communities from storm surges, help keep water supplies clean, and provide a number of other health and economic benefits. There are many ways in which you can help protect your local wetlands and all of the wildlife.

You can:

Who knows? With enough successful wetland restoration, seeing black bears could become a common occurrence again.

 

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