Black bears hold on across N. America

Efforts to protect North America's black bears are working, although the animals need more protection from poachers who sell bear parts to Asia, according to a study released Tuesday.

The survey, conducted for the World Wildlife Fund and World Conservation Union, said the number of bears had increased since the late 1980s both in Canada and the United States. "American black bears are doing well throughout most of their current range," said Ernie Cooper of TRAFFIC, a group that tracks international trade in wildlife and carried out the survey using data from governmental wildlife agencies.

Black bear body parts such as gallbladders and paws are in heavy demand in Asia, where they are used for medicine and food. But the study said while illegal hunting remains a problem in North America, it is not enough to threaten the species.

Still,even if poaching for animal parts was not an immediate threat, more steps should be taken to protect the animals, especially in the United States, the researchers said.

"Action is clearly needed and this positive news should not dictate complacency," Cooper said.

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