Louisiana black bears, national wildlife refuges, Theodore Roosevelt and teddy bears all are intertwined in the history of Mississippi and Louisiana. Photo by USFWS

September 9, 2016 – It is widely known that President Theodore Roosevelt was a pioneering champion of wildlife conservation in America. He was founder of the National Wildlife Refuge System, after all. What may be less well-known is the extraordinary impact Roosevelt had on conservation locally in west-central Mississippi and northeastern Louisiana, where the events that led to the creation of the teddy bear unfolded more than a century ago.

This week – in honor of National Teddy Bear Day (Friday, September 9) – the Refuge System presents “Teddy Roosevelt, the Teddy Bear and the Deep South.” This online story celebrates the 26th president’s influence on conservation and folklore at and near national wildlife refuges in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Holt Collier (1846-1936) was a hunting guide extraordinaire. Photo by USFWS

The online story also celebrates Holt Collier, a widely admired African American outdoorsman who was born a slave, fought for the South in the Civil War and served as Roosevelt’s hunting guide in 1902 and again in 1907.

And the online story celebrates the animal that inspired the teddy bear, the Louisiana black bear, which in March 2016 was removed from the threatened and endangered species list.

“Teddy Roosevelt, the Teddy Bear and the Deep South” is part of the Refuge System’s new series of weekly online stories that use photos to highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments.