Wildlife Wednesday: Black Bear

Wildlife Wednesday: Black Bear

This Wildlife Wednesday, test your knowledge about our familiar North American black bear.

Living in Canada, many of us have encountered a black bear at some point, whether on vacation, or even rummaging through garbage cans on the street. But how much do we really know about these familiar animals in our own backyards?

Habitat: areas throughout North America

Black bear trivia

  • While black bears are reputed to be milder-mannered than grizzlies, nothing gets between a mother black bear and her cubs, so always be cautious in bear country. Educate yourself on what to do if you come across a black bear, and follow advice from park officials and signs when visiting a black bear’s habitat. Treating black bears and their habitats with respect is a rule of thumb.
  • Don’t let their name fool you: black bears can be brown, cinnamon, blue-gray, and sometimes white. These white black bears are called the kermode or “spirit bear” by Aboriginal groups. The spirit bear is the official mammal of British Columbia.
  • True omnivores, black bears eat an extensive range of foods, including fish, roots, grasses, insects, berries and fruit, other mammals, and garbage. Black bears aren’t generally a threat to livestock, however, and are not predators in the same way cougars and wolves are.
  • Cubs are blind and completely helpless when born. They are known to cry like a human baby when afraid, and hum when happy. They stay with their mothers until they’re about two years old.
  • Although it may seem that black bears, being large and bulky, are slow moving and awkward, but this is far from the truth. These bears move very agilely around their habitats, climbing trees, running, digging, and swimming. They’re also very intelligent, hence their ability to get into garbage cans.
  • Other than during mating, black bears are solitary and females raise the cubs alone. There have been occasional reports of male bears attacking cubs.
  • Contrary to what most people believe, black bears aren’t true hibernators. They can wake during their hibernation period and sometimes even walk around if the weather is warm.

Black bears and grizzlies

If you live in Canada, you’re likely familiar with both grizzlies and black bears. Do you know how to tell them apart? Size and colour aren’t always reliable indicators. Check out our Wildlife Wednesday post about grizzly bears from last week to learn the difference.

Threats

The black bear it is extirpated in some parts of Canada—this means that it’s extinct in one region, but still in existence in other areas. Legal, regulated hunting is not considered a threat to black bears. On the other hand, illegal hunting by people who think bears are after their livestock is a threat. The greatest threat is the encroachment of humans into black bear habitat through the clearing of land and forests for building development.

A lack of habitat also means a lack of food, and if female bears can’t find enough food, they won’t give birth to their cubs. Bears can wander into human settlements when desperate for food, looking for crops and garbage, causing conflict between bears and humans.

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