Thursday, January 17, 2008

Black Bears

The Black bear, or Ursus americanus to scientists, is the most common species of bear in North America. If you go camping somewhere in the United States, Mexico or Canada and you see a bear, chances are you’re looking at a black bear. And with the recent tragedy of the Clyde family and an assault by a black bear in Tennessee, it makes sense to approach them with respect and caution. Compared to other American bears, black bears are smaller and more agile, usually weighing from 150-300 pounds, though they can sometimes weigh much more. While they are often black, black bears also come in dark brown and even grayish shades. They are almost always smaller and less furry than their brown bear cousins, and lack the distinctive shoulder hump of the grizzly. Like most bears, the black bear is an omnivore and will eat virtually anything it can get its paws on, though black bears tend to eat more vegetation than their cousins. Roots, seeds, grasses, berries, leaves, twigs, sometimes even bark and the inner parts of trees will make up most of the bear’s diet throughout the year. Black bears will also eat a variety of insects, smaller mammals, and are good at catching fish. Black bears are not particularly aggressive or violent towards people. In many areas, bears are actually quite tame and unafraid of us, and will even be found begging for scraps along the sides of roads. Though their vision is only average, they have an amazing sense of smell, and have a knack for getting into places they shouldn’t be, like cars, gardens or dumpsters. If you are going to be camping in an area where there are black bears, just make sure you don’t leave any food in a place you wouldn’t want a bear to get to. For example, never store opened food items inside your tent. Any food items that are exposed to the sense of smell should be kept tightly sealed, hung from a tree, or at the very least a good distance away from your campsite. My only experience with black bears occurred while I was backpacking with friends in Yosemite. The campsite we reached on the first night was crawling with black bears. Though we were a little nervous at first, it was soon clear they weren’t going to bother us, so we set up camp as planned. As soon as we began cooking dinner, however, we found ourselves with a good-sized bear audience. For the most part they kept their distance, but when we weren’t looking they’d creep closer and closer to get a better look and smell for what we were making. As soon as we looked over at them, they’d turn away and pretend like they weren’t really interested, feigning interest in some twig instead. When we woke the next morning, we discovered the bears had licked all our dishes completely clean. Although the experience I had was actually quite humorous, black bears are certainly capable of causing great bodily injury to you if they feel threatened. Its never a good idea to approach a bear, and if you see bear cubs you should stay far away because there is a very good chance they have a protective mother nearby. Learn more about natural habitats and patterns of domestic and wild animals at Animal Articles

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