Did you say Black Bear?


URSUS AMERICANUS

Also known as Ursus americanus, the black bear is the smallest of the bear family. The female is called a "sow" and the male bear is called a "boar".

HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE SEEN A BLACK BEAR AND NOT A GRIZZLY?

The black bear has the following traits:

  • no shoulder hump
  • shorter snout
  • larger ears
  • long head
  • short claws

whereas the grizzly has the following:

  • shoulder hump
  • longer snout
  • smaller ears
  • rounder head, concave face
  • long claws, easy to see

WHAT COLOUR ARE THEY ANYWAY??

The word "black" may lead you to believe that the bears are black but, in fact, they may vary in colour! Don't be surprised if you see bears that are black, brown, or even cinnamon coloured. Along the coast of British Columbia and Alaska, there are rare blue coloured bears called Glacier Bears as well as white coloured black bears known as Kermode or Spirit bears.

Check out the black bear with her two cubs I observed in Waterton National Park. Notice how one of the cubs is black and the other a beautiful cinnamon colour!!



WHAT ABOUT DIET?

Just what do they eat? Well, you might be surprised! Favourites include:

  • leaves, grasses, wildflowers (and yes dandilions!!)
  • buffalo berries and other berries
  • ants and other insects and their larvae
  • small animals like rabbits or rodents
  • young mammals like baby deer (fawn) or elk (calf)
  • carrion - dead animal carcasses
  • fish
  • and yes honey!
A BOW VALLEY SAYING: A FED ANIMAL IS A DEAD ANIMAL

Black bears can be found throughout most of North America and it is the "typical" bear that people visiting the Canadian Rockies hope to see.

All around the world, people are encroaching more and more on areas home to wildlife and with that we are forcing animals to coexist with us humans. Animals such as bears wander into our cities, towns and yards in search of food, not realizing that they are endangering themselves and people. It is all about balance and this is where it becomes difficult.

Here in the Bow Valley we do not have bird feeders during non-hibernation months, we try to pick fruit as soon as it is ripe and do not leave our garbage bags on our decks but rather dispose of them in bear-proof garbage bins. But is this enough?

It is all about survival. A bear that has found food in an area tends to return in the hopes of finding food again. Although generally cautious of people, a bear will begin to feel safe and its draw to the food becomes stronger than its fear of people. The bear is no longer wild but rather "habituated" and it will likely encounter people at some point. Bears that return to populated areas over and over again are usually removed and brought to safe and "wild" areas. This itself is controversial because bears need their "own" territory and must then find a territory to make their own. Such bears sometimes do return despite relocation efforts.

Desperate measures are taken in situations where the bear continues to return to an area and threaten pets and people. When people or pets are of great interest to the bear or the bear has chased or attacked, wildlife officials are called in and the bear is destroyed. Sometimes bears are even killed by vehicles as they attempt to get back into populated areas.

For some great information on how people can try to successfully coexist with wildlife, visit Bow Valley Wild Smart. Every Friday a "Bear Summary" is posted so you can keep yourself and the bears safe!

Remember that an encounter with wildlife could occur at any time, anywhere. Always be aware of your surroundings and watch for animal scat or droppings or other signs. Try to hike in groups and carry pepper spray. If an area is closed or roped off, please do not enter. These areas have been closed for your protection as well as the animal's.


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