Black Bear Facts
When you think of black bears, are you afraid? Do you think of a bear with its teeth bared? Or maybe you think of SmokeyBear, trying to prevent forest fires? Most of us are afraid of bears but should we be fearful of this misunderstood animal?
The short answer is no. Black bears kill less than 1 person a year on average. One of the problems is the media sensationalism of an attack. What we really need is a paradigm shift in how we relate to wildlife, especially bears.
And the myth a momma black bear is most dangerous with cubs? Untrue. Generally, the cubs will just climb a tree and mom goes about her business.
In fact, there is not a single fatality associated with a mom defending her cubs, ever! Of course, you should keep your distance as any mother animal will protect her babies if threatened.
What If You See A Bear?
The golden rules are:
- Be respectful and keep your distance.
- Do not leave food around a campsite or your house. Many bear attacks involve hungry lone males looking for food.
- If you do encounter one, back away slowly, make a lot of noise and do not run. Darn, the old joke of always hike with someone who is slower than you doesn’t apply here.
Bears are great swimmers and tree climbers. Really, I never thought of them as swimmers. Sounds like our kind of sports!
The smallest and most common of the 8 bear species is the black bear. And they only live in North America. Can you name the other species? (Answer at the end)
Bears eat just about anything making them omnivores. They love berries, nuts, grasses, fish, small mammals, carrion (dead animals) and birdseed from your feeders. Which is why we take our feeders in every night!
When winter arrives, they stay dormant in a den they have made out of leaves, branches and other forest material. During this time, they don’t eat or drink anything. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound fun!
Why are Black Bears so Important?
As apex predators, they keep our ecosystem healthy. But how?
Well, to begin with, they clean up dead animal carcasses which can spread disease to other animals.
They disperse seeds throughout their territory. If you have ever seen bear poop, you know what we mean!
Bears also love to dig for insects which mixes up the soil nutrients to help surrounding plants grow.
Easy Action Steps You Can Take
Keep your garbage in a bear-proof container or inside.
Take bird feeders in at night. We do leave our hummingbird feeders out and have had them knocked down a couple of times by bears. But they don’t get hit as often as the seed feeders.
Slow down in known bear areas so you don’t accidentally run into one on the road.
Please don’t feed bears. They become habituated to humans and can become nuisances. Once they start bothering people, they can be removed from the area or worse, killed.
Learn More About Black Bears
Discover Wildlife: 12 amazing black bear facts
National Geographic: American Black Bear
Answer to the name of the 8 bear species: American black, brown (also known as grizzly), polar, giant panda, sloth, spectacled, sun and Asiatic black. To learn more about the different species read Bears of the World