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“Cougars located in Louisiana are protected under state and federal law and penalties for killing one may include up to one year in jail along with a possible $100,000 fine.”

http://www.deridderdailynews.com/news/x1683625446/Cougar-black-bears-sighted-in-nearby-parishes

Cougar, black bears sighted in nearby parishes

Beauregard Daily News
Mon Mar 16, 2009, 12:09 PM CDT
DeRidder, La. –

Protected under state laws, these creatures may not be killed.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has confirmed the sightings of a puma, or cougar, in three nearby areas.

As guest speaker at a recentl DeRidder Lions Club meeting, Lieutenant Jesse Savoie of the department’s Enforcement Division informed those present that indeed the sightings were true.
The reports come from both Allen and Nachitoches Parish, and Bossier City.

The department confirms such sightings by viewing an image of the animal, usually caught by a game camera, and then finding physical evidence to support the photographic or video proof.

According to Savoie, once an animal is confirmed the department’s first move is to do nothing but simply allow the animal to live in its natural habitat. If this cannot be achieved, however, officers will then attempt to tranquilize and relocate the creature if it poses a threat to the public. Killing the animal is always a last resort, but in a Bossier City incident, officers found that they had no other choice.

“That animal was destroyed after it became disoriented and climbed up a tree in a heavily populated area,” explains Savoie.

No action has been taken against the animal from the other sightings and officers believe that the cougar spotted in Allen and Natchitoches Parishes could even be the same animal. “They usually have very large territories,” says Savoie, “and they move around often.”

In addition to the cougars, black bears have also been spotted in nearby areas, but Savoie says that these animals do not pose the same threat as a cougar. “Black bears are for the most part harmless,” he explains.

Currently the department is actively monitoring the movements of one black bear living in Allen Parish. The animal is a female, weighing approximately 150 pounds, but is not posing a threat of any kind at this time.

While cougars are not especially known for approaching man, Savoie says that the bears are very opportunistic and will often rummage through garbage left out as if it was just for them.

The best thing a resident can do is to safeguard their trash,” says Savoie.

If a bear does become a problem, Savoie says that the typical action taken is to haze the creature, which means striking it with rubber bullets.

“Bears will associate that bad experience more than a cougar would and will usually not return to the area,” he explains.

According to Savoie, no reports have been confirmed by the department of sightings of black bears or cougars in Beauregard Parish. “Not as yet,” he says.

Savoie would also like to remind residents that, even if spotted, these creatures cannot be killed.

Cougars located in Louisiana are protected under state and federal law and penalties for killing one may include up to one year in jail along with a possible $100,000 fine.

Black Bears carry with them a maximum fine of $950 along with the possibility of imprisonment of no more than 120 days.

Because the black bear is recognized as the official state animal of Louisiana, the killing of this animal will also involve civil restitution to the state of Louisiana of at least $10,000.
The black bear is categorized as a species of special concern.

According to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana recently designated 1,195,821 acres land in 15 parishes to be used as a critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Savoie says that if a citizen does believe they have seen a bear or cougar, they are to contact the Wildlife and Fisheries’ Biologist, John Robinette, at 491-2575.

Further information also may be found on the department’s website, www.wlf.Louisiana.gov.

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