Black bears are amazing – they are smart, have a great sense of smell, really good hearing, are strong swimmers, fast runners (some reports say they can run up to 40 miles / hour, (so it would not be wise to try and out run them) and good tree climbers.
An adult male bear is called a boar, an adult female a sow and a baby bear is a cub. The males are larger than the females. The males can weigh 150 – 450 lbs. The females weigh 110 – 250 lbs. A black bear stands 5 – 6 feet tall. (Is anyone in your family that tall?)
Black bears come in a variety of colors, not just black, some are a cinnamon color, others brownish-black and some glossy black. Some black bears even have a white patch on their chest. They have feet that kind of look like human’s feet, with 5 toes. Their front feet are shorter than the back feet.
What do you think they eat? They are “omnivores” so they eat both plants and animals – insects, berries, grubs, acorns, wetland plants, dead animals (carrion) and occasionally small mammals, deer and livestock.
Their “habitat” is forestland. They prefer to live in areas where there are trees and streams, places where they can find food, water and shelter and where they have plenty of space to roam.
They mate in June and July and the babies (cubs) are born 7 months later in January or February. There can be 1- 4 babies born at a time, but generally 2-3. They weigh about 8 oz. (1/2 lb.) (about the size of a can of soda) and are blind, toothless and covered with fine hairs when they are first born. They grow fast and in one year they can weigh 45 – 100 lbs. In about 18 months they will go off on their own. The sow (mom) has babies every 2 years if they have enough food.
In the winter time , from late November – mid-March, they “den-up”, often under fallen trees or in brush piles, sometimes in rocky ledges. They are not “true” hibernators because, although their heart rate slows and their body temperature comes down a little bit, they can wake if they are disturbed. At this time they normally don’t eat, drink, defecate (poop) or urinate (pee).
Never feed bears by leaving out garbage at your home or leaving food out when you are camping. Take your bird feeders down in early March and keep them down until November. Remember, they are smart, once they find food they will keep coming back.
If you come across a bear make noise, act like you are big and back up slowly. A mama bear will protect her babies so leave them alone.
You can tell if a bear has been around by their tracks (foot prints), their scat (poop) and sometimes they mark their “territory” with claw marks on a tree.
Be Bear Aware and Bear Smart! You can help protect bears by learning more about them. We can all live safely together!
- Alaska’s Three Bears by Shelley Gill about polar bears, grizzly bears and black bears in Alaska.
- Growing Up WILD Activity: Lunch for a Bear: Resource pages have animal tracks, art project to make paper plate bears.
- Tracking and the Art of Seeing by Paul Rezendes
- New England Wildlife Habitat , Natural History, and Distribution by Richard M. DeGraaf and Mariko Yamasaki