Basic Facts About Black Bears
Form and Function
Evolution and Classification
Asian Black Bear
American Black Bear
Black Bears Fun Fact
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A medium-sized forest-dwelling bear with blackish
fur and a paler face, found in North America and
Although it has a reputation for being fierce and aggressive, the bear is more often a
peaceful and solitary creature. The largest of the carnivores-animals classified in an
order of flesh-eating land mammals-and the least carnivorous, or flesh-eating. It is
closely related to the dog and the raccoon.
Black bears are North America's most familiar and common bears. They typically live in
forests and are excellent tree climbers, but are also found in mountains and swamps.
Despite their name, black bears can be blue-gray or blue-black, brown, cinnamon, or
even (very rarely) white.
Black bears are very opportunistic eaters. Most of their diet consists of grasses, roots,
berries, and insects. They will also eat fish and mammals—including carrion—and easily
develop a taste for human foods and garbage. Bears that become habituated to human
food at campsites, cabins, or rural homes can become dangerous and are often killed—
thus the frequent reminder: Please don't feed the bears!
Solitary animals, black bears roam large territories, though they do not protect them
from other bears. Males might wander a 15- to 80-square-mile (39- to 207-square-
kilometer) home range.
When winter arrives, black bears spend the season dormant in their dens, feeding on
body fat they have built up by eating ravenously all summer and fall. They make their
dens in caves, burrows, brush piles, or other sheltered spots—sometimes even in tree
holes high above the ground. Black bears den for various lengths of time governed by
the diverse climates in which they live, from Canada to northern Mexico.
Female black bears give birth to two or three blind, helpless cubs in mid-winter and
nurse them in the den until spring, when all emerge in search of food. The cubs will stay
with their very protective mother for about two years.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT BLACK BEARS
Black bears have short, non-retractable claws that give them an excellent tree-climbing
Black bear fur
Fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown muzzle and light markings that
sometimes appear on their chests. Eastern populations are usually black in color while
western populations often show brown, cinnamon, and blond coloration in addition to
black. Black bears with white-bluish fur are known as Kermode (glacier) bears and these
unique color phases are only found in coastal British Columbia, Canada.
American black bears are omnivorous: plants, fruits, nuts, insects, honey, salmon, small
mammals and carrion. In northern regions, they eat spawning salmon.
Black bears will also occasionally kill young deer or moose calves.
It is estimated that there are at least 600,000 black bears in North America. In the
United States, there are estimated to be over 300,000 individuals. However, the
Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolu) and Florida black bear (Ursus
americanus floridanus) are threatened subspecies with small populations (see Legal
Black bears are extremely adaptable and show a great variation in habitat types, though
they are primarily found in forested areas with thick ground vegetation and an
abundance of fruits, nuts, and vegetation. In the northern areas, they can be found in
the tundra, and they will sometimes forage in fields or meadows.
Black bears tend to be solitary animals, with the exception of mothers and cubs. The
bears usually forage alone, but will tolerate each other and forage in groups if there is
an abundance of food in one area.
Most black bears hibernate depending on local weather conditions and availability of
food during the winter months. In regions where there is a consistent food supply and
warmer weather throughout the winter, bears may not hibernate at all or do so for a
very brief time. Females give birth and usually remain denned throughout the winter,
but males and females without young may leave their dens from time to time during
1-6 cubs; 2 cubs are most common.
Cubs remain with the mother for a year and a half or more, even though they are
weaned at 6-8 months of age. Females only reproduce every second year (or more).
Should the young die for some reason, the female may reproduce again after only one
Average life span in the wild:
5 to 6 ft (1.5 to 1.8 m) long
200 to 600 lbs (90 to 270 kg)
Sleuth or Sloth
Did you know?
Black bears are not true hibernators. During their winter dormant period, though, they
do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate, but may wake up if disturbed.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
The American black bear is distributed throughout North America, from Canada to
Mexico and in at least 40 states in the U.S. They historically occupied nearly all of the
forested regions of North America, but in the U.S. they are now restricted to the
forested areas less densely occupied by humans.
In Canada, black bears still inhabit most of their historic range except for the intensively
farmed areas of the central plains. In Mexico, black bears were thought to have
inhabited the mountainous regions of the northern states but are now limited to a few
Form and function
In most species, the male is larger than the female. Unlike cats and canids such as dogs
and wolves, bears walk in plantigrade fashion (on the soles of their feet with the heels
touching the ground). Each foot has five digits ending in large nonretractile claws that
are sometimes adapted for digging, as in the Asian sloth bear. The claws on the front
feet are usually better developed than those on the rear, and they are especially
adapted for digging out small rodents or nutritious plant roots. The feet generally have
hairless soles, but those of the polar bear are covered with hair, enabling the animal to
walk on ice with a firm footing. Bears lack a clavicle but have a baculum (penis bone).
Their lips are protrusible and mobile. All have a short stubby tail.
Bears have an elongate skull that is especially heavy in the back portion, and their jaws
are controlled at the hinge by a powerful set of muscles. The teeth of the omnivorous
bears are unspecialized. The first three premolars are usually either missing or
extremely small. Except for variability as to the presence of premolars, the ursid dental
formula is that of the Carnivora generally, but the sloth bear lacks one pair of upper
incisors. The shearing teeth (carnassials) are poorly developed, and the molars have
broad, flat crowns.
Evolution and classification
The bear family is the most recently evolved lineage of carnivores. Studies of
mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) performed during the early 21st century showed that black
bears, brown bears, and polar bears diverged from one another some 4–5 million years
ago, early in the Pliocene Epoch (5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago).
There has been much disagreement over the classification of giant pandas.
Mammalogists have placed giant pandas with bears (family Ursidae), with raccoons
(Procyonidae), or with the red, or lesser, panda (Ailurus fulgens) in Ailuridae. However,
molecular analyses performed during the 1990s have revealed a close evolutionary
relationship between giant pandas and bears.
Family Ursidae (bears)
8 species in 5 genera found in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia,
not including 1 African species (Ursus crowtheri) of the Atlas Mountains, driven to
extinction in the 19th century.
Genus Ursus (American black bear, Asiatic black bear, polar bear, and brown
bear, including the grizzly bear)
4 species of North America, Asia, and Europe.
Genus Ailuropoda (giant panda)
1 species of central China.
Genus Helarctos (sun bear)
1 species of Southeast Asia.
Genus Melursus (sloth bear)
1 species of the Indian subcontinent.
Genus Tremarctos (spectacled bear)
1 species of the Andes Mountains of South America.
There are two species of black bears belonging to genus ursus .i.e. Asiatic Black Bear and
American Black Bear.
Asiatic black bear: bear with a black coat living in central and eastern Asia.
American black bear: brown to black North American bear; smaller and less ferocious than the
Asian black bear
The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), also known as the moon bear or white-chested bear, is
a medium-sized species of bear, largely adapted for arboreal life, seen across much of the
Himalayas and the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Korea, northeastern China, the
Russian far east and the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan. It is classed by the IUCN as a
vulnerable species, mostly due to deforestation and active hunting for its body parts. The
species is morphologically very similar to some prehistoric bears, and is thought by some
scientists to be the ancestor of other extant bear species. Though largely herbivorous, Asian
black bears can be very aggressive toward humans, and have frequently attacked people
without provocation. The species was described by Rudyard Kipling as "the most bizarre of the
ursine species." .and made by Quinton Tarlton.
Ancestral and sister taxa
Biologically and morphologically, Asian black bears represent the beginning of the arboreal
specialisations attained by sloth bears and sun bears. Asian black bears have karotypes nearly
identical to those of the five other ursine bears, and, as is typical in the genus, they have 74
chromosomes. From an evolutionary perspective, Asian black bears are the least changed of
Old World bears, with certain scientists arguing that it is likely that all other lineages of ursine
bear stem from this species.
Asian black bears are close relatives to American black bears, with which they share a European
common ancestor; the two species are thought to have diverged 3 million years ago, though
genetic evidence is inconclusive. Both American and Asiatic species are considered sister taxa,
and are more closely related to each other than other species of bear. The earliest American
black bear fossils, which were located in Port Kennedy, Pennsylvania, greatly resemble the
Asiatic species. The first mtDNA study undertaken on Asian black bears suggested that the
species arose after the American black bears, while a second study could not statistically
resolve the branching order of sloth bears and the two black species, suggesting that these
three species underwent a rapid radiation event. A third study suggested that American black
bears and Asian black bears diverged as sister taxa after the sloth bear lineage and before the
sun bear lineage. Further investigations on the entire mitochondrial cytochrome b sequence
indicate that the divergence of continental and Japanese black bear populations might have
occurred when bears crossed the land bridge between the Korean peninsula and Japan 500,000
years ago, which is consistent with paleontological evidence.
Until the Late Pleistocene, two further subspecies ranged across Europe and western Asia.
These are Ursus thibetanus mediterraneus in western Europe and the Caucasus and Ursus
thibetanus permjak from eastern Europe, especially the Ural Mountains.
Asian black bears are reproductively compatible with several other bear species, and have on
occasion produced hybrid offspring. According to Jack Hanna's Monkeys on the Interstate, a
bear captured in Sanford, Florida was thought to have been the offspring of an escaped female
Asian black bear and an American black bear, and Scherren's Some notes on hybrid bears
published in 1907 mentioned a successful mating between an Asian black bear and a sloth bear.
In 1975, within Venezuela's "Las Delicias" Zoo, a female black bear shared its enclosure with a
spectacled bear, and produced several hybrid descendants. In 2005, a possible black bear/sun
bear hybrid cub was captured in the Mekong River watershed of eastern Cambodia. An Asian
black bear/brown bear hybrid, taken from a bile farm, is housed at the Animals Asia
Foundation's China Moon Bear Rescue as of 2010.
Asian black bears are similar in general appearance to brown bears, but are more lightly built
and are more slender limbed. The skulls of Asian black bears are relatively small, but massive,
particularly in the lower jaw. Adult males have skulls measuring 311.7–328 mm (12.3–13 in)
long and 199.5–228 mm (7.9–9 in) wide, while females have skulls measuring 291.6–315 mm
(11.5–12.4 in) long and 163–173 mm (6.4–6.8 in) wide. Compared to other bears of the genus
Ursus, the projections of the skull are weakly developed; the sagittal crest is low and short,
even in old specimens, and does not exceed more than 19–20% of the total length of the skull,
unlike in brown bears, which have sagittal crests comprising up to 41% of the skull's length.
Although mostly herbivorous, the jaw structure of Asian black bears is not as specialised for
plant eating as that of pandas: Asian black bears have much narrower zygomatic arches, and
the weight ratio of the two pterygoid muscles is also much smaller in Asian black bears.
However, the lateral slips of the temporal muscles are thicker and stronger in black bears.
In contrast to polar bears, Asian black bears have powerful upper bodies for climbing trees, and
relatively weak hind legs, which are shorter than those in brown bears and American black
bears. A black bear with broken hind legs can still climb effectively. They are the most bipedal
of all bears, and have been known to walk upright for over a quarter mile. The heel pads on the
forefeet are larger than those of most other bear species. Their claws, which are primarily used
for climbing and digging, are slightly longer on the fore foot (30–45 mm) than the back (18–36
mm), and are larger and more hooked than those of the American black bear. The ears, which
are bell shaped, are proportionately longer than those of other bears, and stick out sideways
from the head. The lips and nose are larger and more mobile than those of brown bears.
On average, adult black bears are slightly smaller than American black bears, though large
males can exceed the size of several other bear species. They measure 70–100 cm (28–40 in) at
the shoulder, and 120–195 cm (47–77 in) in length. The tail is 11 cm (4.4 inches) long. Mature
males typically weigh between 100–200 kg (220-440 lbs), with an average weight of about 135
kg (about 300 lbs). Females weigh about 65–90 kg (143–198 lbs), with large ones up to 140 kg
(308 lbs). The famed British sportsman known as the "Old Shekarry" wrote of how a black bear
he shot in India probably weighed no less than 363 kg (800 lbs) based on how many people it
took to lift its body, though Gary Brown, author of The Great Bear Almanac writes that the
largest Asian black bear on record weighed 200 kg (440 lbs). Zoo-kept specimens can weigh up
to 225 kg (500 lbs). Although their senses are more acute than those of brown bears, their
eyesight is poor, and their powers of hearing moderate, the upper limit being 30 kHz.
Asian black bears are diurnal, though they become nocturnal near human habitations. They
may live in family groups consisting of two adults and two successive litters of young. They will
walk in a procession of largest to smallest. They are good climbers of rocks and trees, and will
climb to feed, rest, sun, elude enemies and hibernate. Some older bears may become too heavy
to climb. Half of their life is spent in trees and they are one of the largest arboreal mammals. In
the Ussuri territory, black bears can spend up to 15% of their time in trees. Asian black bears
break branches and twigs to place under themselves when feeding on trees, thus causing many
trees in their home ranges to have nest-like structures on their tops. Asian black bears will rest
for short periods in nests on trees standing fifteen feet or higher. Asian black bears do not
hibernate over most of their range. They may hibernate in their colder, northern ranges,
though some bears will simply move to lower elevations. Nearly all pregnant sows hibernate.
Black bears prepare their dens for hibernation in mid October, and will sleep from November
until March. Their dens can either be dug out hollow trees (sixty feet above ground), caves or
holes in the ground, hollow logs, or steep, mountainous and sunny slopes. They may also den in
abandoned brown bear dens. Asiatic black bears tend to den at lower elevations and on less
steeper slopes than brown bears. Female black bears emerge from dens later than do males,
and female black bears with cubs emerge later than barren females. Asian black bears tend to
be less mobile than brown bears. With sufficient food, Asian black bears can remain in an area
of roughly 1–2 sq km, and sometimes even as little as 0.5–1 sq km.
Asian black bears have a wide range of vocalisations, including grunts, whines, roars, slurping
sounds (sometimes made when feeding) and "an appalling row" when wounded, alarmed or
angry. They emit loud hisses when issuing warnings or threats, and scream when fighting.
When approaching other bears, they produce "tut tut" sounds, thought to be produced by
bears snapping their tongue against the roof of their mouth. When courting, they emit clucking
Tameability and Trainability
Along with sun bears, Asian black bears are the most typically used species in areas where
bears are either used in performances or as pets. Asian black bears have an outstanding
learning ability in captivity, and are among the most common species used in circus acts.
According to Gary Brown:
The Asiatic black bears are the comedians of the performing bears. They appear to appreciate
applause and will intentionally move into their prescribed position late to attain laughter and
—Brown, Gary The Influence of Bears on Humans from The Great Bear Almanac, Lyons &
Burford, Publishers, 1993
Black bears are easily tamed, and can be fed with rice, maize, sweet potato, cassava, pumpkin,
ripe fruit, animal fat and sweet foods. Keeping captive black bears is popular in China, especially
due to the belief that milking the bear's gall bladder leads to quick prosperity. Bears are also
popular as pets in Vietnam.
The main habitat threat to Chinese black bears is overcutting of forests, largely due to human
populations increasing to over 430,000 in regions where bears are distributed, in the Shaanxi,
Ganshu, and Sichuan provinces. 27 forestry enterprises were built in these areas between 1950
and 1985 (excluding the lumbering units belonging to the county). By the early 1990s, the black
bear distribution area was reduced to only one-fifth of the area that existed before the 1940s.
Isolated bear populations face environmental and genetic stress in these circumstances.
However, one of the most important reasons for their decrease involves overhunting, as black
bear paws, gall bladders and cubs have great economic value. Black bear harvests are
maintained at a high level due to the harm they cause to crops, orchards and bee farms. During
the 1950s and 1960s, 1000 bears were harvested annually in the Heilongjiang Province.
However, purchased furs were reduced by 4/5, even by 9/10 yearly in the late 1970s to the
early 1980s. Bears have also been declining annually in Dehong Dai and Jingpo Nations
Autonomous Prefecture and the Yunnan Province.
Poaching for gall bladders and skin are the main threat faced by black bears in India.
Although the poaching of bears is well known throughout Japan, authorities have done little to
remedy the situation. The killing of nuisance bears is practiced year-round, and harvest
numbers have been on the increase. Box traps have been widely used since 1970 to capture
nuisance bears. It is estimated that the number of shot bears will decrease in time, due to the
decline of old traditional hunters and the increase of a younger generation less inclined to hunt.
Logging is also considered a threat.
Although black bears have been afforded protection in Russia since 1983, illegal poaching,
fuelled by a growing demand for bear parts in the Asian market, is still a major threat to the
Russian population. Many workers of Chinese and Korean origin, supposedly employed in the
timber industry, are actually involved in the illegal trade. Some Russian sailors reportedly
purchase bear parts from local hunters to sell them to Japanese and Southeast Asian clients.
Russia's rapidly growing timber industry has been a serious threat to the Asian black bear's
home range for three decades. The cutting of trees containing cavities deprives black bears of
their main source of dens, and forces them to den on the ground or in rocks, thus making them
more vulnerable to tigers, brown bears and hunters.
In Taiwan, black bears are not actively pursued, though steel traps set out for wild boars have
been responsible for unintentional bear trappings.Timber harvesting has largely stopped being
a major threat to Taiwan's black bear population, though a new policy concerning the transfer
of ownership of hill land from the government to private interests has the potential to affect
some lowland habitat, particularly in the eastern part of the nation. The building of new cross
island highways through bear habitat is also potentially threatening.
Vietnamese black bear populations have declined rapidly due to the pressures of human
population growth and unstable settlement. Vietnamese forests have been: of the 87,000km2
of natural forests, about 1,000km2 disappear every year. Hunting pressures have also increased
with a coinciding decline of environmental awareness.
South Korea remains one of two countries to allow bear bile farming to continue legally. As
reported in 2009, approximately 1,374 bears reside in an estimated 74 bear farms where they
are kept for slaughter to fuel the demands of traditional Asian medicine. In sharp contrast,
fewer than 20 bears can be found at Jirisan Restoration Center, located in Korea's Jirisan
AMERICAN BLACK BEAR
The (North) American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a medium-sized bear native to North
America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are
omnivores with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live
in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes they become
attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food. The American
black bear is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern, due to the species' widespread distribution
and a large global population estimated to be twice that of all other bear species combined.
Along with the brown bear, it is one of only two of the eight modern bear species not
considered globally threatened with extinction by the IUCN. American black bears often mark
trees using their teeth and claws as a form of communication with other bears, a behavior
common to many species of bears.
Taxonomy and Evolution
Although they all live in North America, American black bears are not closely related to brown
bears and polar bears; genetic studies reveal that they split from a common ancestor 5.05
million years ago. Both American and Asiatic black bears are considered sister taxa, and are
more closely related to each other than to other species of bear.
A small primitive bear called Ursus abstrusus is the oldest known North American fossil member
of the genus Ursus, dated to 4.95 mya. This suggests that U. abstrusus may be the direct
ancestor of the American black bear, which evolved in North America. Although Wolverton and
Lyman still consider U. vitabilis an "apparent precursor to modern black bears", it has also
placed within U. americanus.
The ancestors of American black bears and Asiatic black bears diverged from sun bears 4.58
mya. The American black bear then split from the Asian black bear 4.08 mya. The earliest
American black bear fossils, which were located in Port Kennedy, Pennsylvania, greatly
resemble the Asiatic species, though later specimens grew to sizes comparable to grizzlies.
From the Holocene to present, American black bears seem to have shrunk in size, but this has
been disputed because of problems with dating these fossil specimens.
American black bears are reproductively compatible with several other bear species, and have
occasionally produced hybrid offspring. According to Jack Hanna's Monkeys on the Interstate, a
bear captured in Sanford, Florida, was thought to have been the offspring of an escaped female
Asian black bear and an American black bear. In 1859, a black bear and a Eurasian brown bear
were bred together in the London Zoological Gardens, but the three cubs did not reach
maturity. In The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication Charles Darwin noted:
In the nine-year Report it is stated that the bears had been seen in the Zoological Gardens to
couple freely, but previously to 1848 most had rarely conceived. In the Reports published since
this date three species have produced young (hybrids in one case).
A black bear shot in autumn 1986 in Michigan was thought by some to be a black bear/grizzly
bear hybrid, due to its unusually large size and its proportionately larger braincase and skull.
DNA testing was unable to determine whether it was a black bear or grizzly.
American black bears can be distinguished from brown bears by their smaller size, their more
concave profiles, their shorter claws and the lack of a shoulder hump.
The skulls of American black bears are broad, with narrow muzzles and large jaw hinges.
Females tend to have more slender and pointed faces than males. Their claws are typically
black or grayish brown. The claws are short and rounded, being thick at the base and tapering
to a point. Claws from both hind and front legs are almost identical in length, though the
foreclaws tend to be more sharply curved. The hind legs are longer than those of Asiatic black
bears. The tail is usually 4.8 inches (12 cm) long. The ears are small and rounded, and are set
well back on the head. The soles of the feet are black or brownish, and are naked, leathery and
deeply wrinkled. Black bears are highly dexterous, being capable of opening screw-top jars and
manipulating door latches. They also have great physical strength. Even bear cubs have been
known to turn over flat-shaped rocks weighing 310 to 325 pounds (140 to 147 kg) by flipping
them over with a single foreleg. They move in a rhythmic, surefooted way and can run at
speeds of 25–30 mph (40–50 km/h). Black bears have good eyesight, and have been proven
experimentally to be able to learn visual discrimination tasks based on color faster than
chimpanzees and as fast as dogs. They are also capable of rapidly learning to distinguish
different shapes, such as small triangles, circles and squares.
Black bear weight tends to vary according to age, sex, health, and season. Seasonal variation in
weight is very pronounced: in autumn, their pre-den weight tends to be 30% higher than in
spring, when black bears emerge from their dens. Black bears on the East Coast tend to be
heavier on average than those on the West Coast. Adult males typically weigh between 57–250
kg (130–550 lb), while females weigh 33% less at 41–170 kg (90–370 lb)
The fur is soft, with dense underfur and long, coarse, thick guard hairs. The fur is not as shaggy
or coarse as that of brown bears. American black bear skins can be distinguished from those of
Asiatic black bears by the lack of a white mark on the chin and hairier footpads. Despite their
name, black bears show a great deal of color variation. Individual coat colors can range from
white, blond, cinnamon, or light brown to dark chocolate brown or to jet black, with many
intermediate variations existing. Bluish tinged black bears occur along a portion of coastal
Alaska and British Columbia. White to cream colored black bears occur in coastal islands and
the adjacent mainland of south-western British Columbia. Albino specimens have also been
recorded. Black coats tend to predominate in moist areas such as New England, New York,
Tennessee, Michigan and western Washington. 70% of all black bears are black, though only
50% of black bears in the Rocky Mountains are black.
Sounds expressing aggression include growls, woofs, snorts, bellows and roars. Sounds
expressing contentment include mumbles, squeaks and pants. American black bears tend to be
territorial and non-gregarious in nature. They mark their territories by rubbing their bodies
against trees and clawing at the bark. Black bears are excellent and strong swimmers, doing so
for pleasure and to feed. Black bears climb regularly to feed, escape enemies or to hibernate.
Their arboreal abilities tend to decline with age. Adult black bears are mostly nocturnal, but
juveniles are often active in daytime.
Sows usually produce their first litter at the age of 3–5 years. Sows living in urban areas tend to
get pregnant at younger ages. The breeding period usually occurs in the June–July period,
though it can extend to August in the species' northern range. The breeding period lasts for 2–3
weeks. Sows tend to be short tempered with their mates after copulating. The gestation period
lasts 235 days, and litters are usually born in late January to early February. Litters usually
consist of two cubs, though litters of 6 have been recorded.
Black bears were once not considered true or "deep" hibernators, but because of discoveries
about the metabolic changes that allow black bears to remain dormant for months without
eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating, most biologists have redefined mammalian
hibernation as "specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism concurrent with scarce food and
cold weather". Black bears are now considered highly efficient hibernators.
Up to 85% of the black bear's diet consists of vegetation, though they tend to dig less than
brown bears, eating far fewer roots, bulbs, corms and tubers than the latter species. The
majority of the black bear's animal diet consists of insects such as bees, yellow-jackets, ants and
their larvae. Black bears will fish for salmon during the night, as their black fur is easily spotted
by salmon in the daytime. They may climb up to bald eagle nests to eat the eggs or chicks. Black
bears have been reported stealing deer and other animals from human hunters.
Historically, black bears were hunted by both Native Americans and European settlers. Some
Native American tribes, in admiration for the black bear's intelligence, would decorate the
heads of bears they killed with trinkets, and place them on blankets. Tobacco smoke would be
wafted into the disembodied head's nostrils by the hunter that dealt the killing blow, and would
compliment the animal for its courage. The Kutchin typically hunted black bears during their
hibernation cycle. Unlike the hunting of hibernating grizzlies, which was wrought with danger,
black bears took longer to awaken, and was thus safer and easier. During the European
colonisation of eastern North America, thousands of black bears were hunted for their meat,
fat and fur. Theodore Roosevelt wrote extensively on black bear hunting in his Hunting the
Grisly and other sketches, in which he stated "in [a black bear] chase there is much excitement,
and occasionally a slight spice of danger, just enough to render it attractive; so it has always
been eagerly followed". He wrote that black bears were difficult to hunt by stalking, due to
their habitat preferences, though were easy to trap. Roosevelt described how in the Southern
States, planters regularly hunted black bears on horseback with hounds. General Wade
Hampton was known to have been present at 500 successful black bear hunts, two thirds of
which he killed personally. He killed thirty or forty black bears with only a knife, which he would
use to stab the bears between the shoulder blades while they were distracted by his hounds.
Unless well trained, horses were often useless in black bear hunts, as they often bolted when
the bears stood their ground. In 1799, 192,000 black bear skins were exported from Quebec. In
1822, 3,000 skins were exported from the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1992, untanned, fleshed
and salted black bear hides were sold for an average of $165.
In Canada, black bears are considered as both a big game and furbearer species in all provinces
save for New Brunswick and Northwest Territories, where they are only classed as a big game
species. There are currently 80,822 licensed black bear hunters in all of Canada. Canadian black
bear hunts take place in the fall and spring, and both male and female bears can be legally
taken, though some provinces prohibit the hunting of females with cubs, or yearling specimens.
Currently, 28 of the USA's states have black bear hunting seasons. Nineteen states require a
bear hunting license, with some also requiring a big game license.
Meat and organs
Black bear meat had historically been held in high esteem among North America's indigenous
people and colonists. Black bears were the only bear species the Kutchin hunted for their meat,
though this constituted only a small part of their diet. According to the second volume of Frank
Forester's field sports of the United States, and British provinces, of North America:
The flesh of the [black] bear is savoury, but rather luscious, and tastes not unlike pork. It was
once so common an article of food in New-York as to have given the name of Bear Market to
one of the principal markets of the city.
—Frank Forester's field sports of the United States, and British provinces, of North America p.
Theodore Roosevelt himself likened the flesh of young black bears to that of pork, and not as
coarse or flavourless as the meat of grizzlies. The most favoured cuts of the black bear's meat
are concentrated in the legs and loins. Meat from the neck, front legs and shoulders is usually
ground into mincemeat or used for stews and casseroles. Keeping the fat tends to give the
meat a strong flavour. As black bears can have trichinellosis, cooking temperatures need to be
high in order to kill the parasites.
Black bear fat was once valued as a cosmetic article which promoted hair growth and gloss. The
fat most favoured for this purpose was the hard white fat found in the body's interior. As only a
small portion of this fat could be harvested for this purpose, the oil was often mixed with large
quantities of hog lard. However animal rights activism over the last decade has slowed the
harvest of these animals; therefore the lard from black bear has not been used in recent years
for the purpose of cosmetics.
BLACK BEARS FUN FACT
On a 1902 hunting trip in Mississippi, President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt refused to shoot a
bear that was tied to a tree to ensure an easy target for the president. President Roosevelt
immediately ordered the bear released and set free. As a result, political cartoonist Clifford K.
Berryman created this cartoon. When toy makers got wind of this, the "Teddy Bear" was born.
SAVE BLACK BEARS
Black bears are facing some alarming threats, including habitat destruction, poaching and
needless killings. You can help. Adopt a black bear.
Each individual Florida black bear population needs a minimum of 500,000 to 1 million acres of
area to find food, shelter, and mates, so habitat loss due to development is a major threat to
their survival. The leading cause of bear deaths is car accidents—over the last five years,
between 125 - 175 bears have been killed each year by vehicles. As Florida communities
continue to grow and encroach on bear territory, and recovery efforts contribute to a rise in
bear numbers, interactions with the animals are becoming more prevalent, often resulting in
the death of the bear.
Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for black bear recovery. Thanks to conservation
efforts by the state, Defenders of Wildlife and others, the Florida black bear was removed from
the Florida state threatened species list on August 24, 2012. We work with the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission on developing long-term plans for managing and connecting
bear habitat throughout the state. We also provide a variety of public education programs and
resources, such as bear-resistant dumpsters, to help prevent human-bear conflicts.
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The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, ''Ursus thibetanus'' Asiatic black bear,
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American black bear videos, photos and facts – Ursus americanus
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