Black bears

Black bears

Much to the consternation of many people, black bears are not always black – they are sometimes brown, occasionally blonde and sometimes (though rarely) even white! Some black bears have a patch of white on their chests. Black bears are smaller than grizzlies but are huge no doubt. Most wild males reach up to 400-500 pounds while females vary between 100-300 pounds. The weight of a bear of course depends on the season, the time of the year and the age of the bear itself. However, the heaviest black bear known to man weighs a cool 880 pounds! Male black bears are larger than the females and can grow up to 60-80 inches tall.

Black bears have a very big brain as is compatible with its body. It is one of the more intelligent mammals and has excellent long-term memory. These black bears also have excellent vision and can see fairly well close up. They see in color. When they are relaxed, black bears make a large number of grunts, but they howl when they are nervous or irritated. They use their voice to express their emotions. Black bears are excellent swimmers and can swim at least half a mile when they are in fresh water. Black bears can hear and smell much better than most humans too. For all their weight and clumsiness, black bears are fast runners, agile and quick. They can run uphill, downhill or on flat ground. The speed of the bear depends on its weight of course. When bears are fat in winter, they overheat quickly and tire easily.

Some black bears are nocturnal, mostly because they want to avoid people. Otherwise, black bears become active a few hours before sunrise, take a nap in the course of the day and wind up for the day along with sunset. But this is not a set pattern as some bears reverse this pattern. Black bears are excellent hunters and are omnivorous in nature. They like their pound of flesh as well as enjoy fruits, leaves, acorns, succulent greens and insects. Black bears adapt their sleep to the availability of food. In the South where food is available all through the year, bears remain active throughout. But in the North when food becomes scarce between September and April, they hibernate. Bears that hibernate usually slow their metabolism to suit the needs of the body to accommodate the lean months.

Black bears are usually found in deep jungles that are bereft of human population. They range from Florida to North Mexico and from Alaska to Canada. Some black bears have even moved into open Tundra where there are no grizzlies. As people have started learning more about bears, they have become more tolerant of bears. However black bears are most happy in large forests that abound in vegetation, fruits and nuts. Wetlands and rainy areas are excellent sources of succulent vegetation, while streams and pools provide water for cooling and drinking. When mothers have cubs they like to rest in large trees with furrowed barks for bedding sites. These are very secure.

Female black bears produce cubs between 5-7 years. Mating cycles depend on the availability of food. New born cubs weigh 1-2 pounds at birth. Cubs usually stay with their mothers till they are 2-3 years old. When they are ready to mate again, mothers let go of their cubs. Most black bears can live up to 20 years or more if they are not hunted down. But those bears living outside protection die due to human intervention. Therefore, the average unprotected bear lives only for 3-6 years.

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