With winter upon us, black bears are either already in hibernation or getting set to do so. How much do you really know about black bears? They can be cute, they can be smelly, and they can be violent. Here are some facts on the common black bear.
Size and Weight
Black bears can be about the same size as humans and, depending on the time of year, can weigh up to 180 pounds. They can be 30% heavier in the fall when they’re preparing for hibernation instead of the springtime when they’re done hibernating for the winter. The average female weighs between 100-150 pounds; males average between 150-180 and can double their weight over the summer in preparation for hibernation.
Hibernation Slim Down
When black bears shut it down for the winter, their body temperature drops from 38 Celsius to 33, and their heart rate goes from 50 beats/minute to just 10. They don’t eat, drink, or go to the bathroom the entire time they’re hibernating, and while they lose half of their body fat during this process, they don’t lose any muscle mass.
Bears Give Birth Before They End Their Hibernation
After mating season in June-July, the female bear typically gives birth to one or two cubs in January while she’s in hibernation. The cubs nurse while the momma bear continues to hibernate, and when the springtime rolls around, they all set out together. Cubs usually weigh about 5 pounds when they first set out after hibernation and stay with the mother all summer, before another winter of hibernation together. Following that winter hibernation, the cubs are released on their own after roughly 18 months. Female bears usually mate only every second year due to this lengthy process.
Bears Love to Eat
Bears are constantly looking for food and spend almost a whole day searching for their meal. They are vegetarian, living mainly off berries or nuts for the most part. They will catch fish during the spawning season and have an amazing sense of smell, which is why they can be found in garbage bins or rummaging around campsites. Small mammals and birds can sometimes be a meal for black bears. Always keep your food sealed when camping or outdoors because they will find it.
Bears Are Excellent Tree Climbers and Swimmers
Due to their huge paws and enormous claws, bears have excellent grip making them great tree climbers. Cubs primarily climb trees to escape from predators and can be very adventurous, climbing high into the treetops. Bears also love to hunt for fish and won’t hesitate to jump into the water, searching for their next meal. Cubs generally take to the water easily and quickly as well.
Black Bears Can Reach High Speeds
Bears tend to move slowly, giving off a lazy or sluggish vibe, but when needed, they can run at high speeds of 40-50 kilometres per hour. They can’t maintain this pace for an extended period, and they tire out quite fast due to their size.
Once born, bears grow up until they are 7 years old and can live as long as 20-25 years but the average for bears in the wild is 18 years.
Black Bears Aren’t Always Black
Just because they’re called black bears doesn’t mean they will always be black. They can also be brown, blonde and even greyish-blue.
Bears Have Interesting Senses
Black bears tend to have poor eyesight but make up for it with their tremendous sense of hearing and smell. When a bear is startled, it will stand up on its hind legs to understand its situation.
What Should You Do If You Encounter a Black Bear?
Coming across a black bear can be very frightening and urge you to scream or run. If you ever stumble upon one at close range, the best advice is to slowly back away while still facing the bear. Never run or turn your back to the bear; stand your ground and make loud noises. If you don’t have bear spray (highly-concentrated pepper spray), acting bigger by shouting, waving your arms, nearby tree branch or tool of some sort will help scare the bear away.