National Black Bear Day.
Today is National Black Bear day and all of us at Killarney Mountain Lodge thought we would whip up a few facts about these incredible creatures that are often seen on property and the surrounding areas.
1. Distribution and diversity:
The American black bear is the most widespread and plentiful species of bear in the world. Their territory ranges from the arctic circle all the way down to Mexico. With such a big population comes a vast amount of diversity within the species that has led to the development of 16 different subspecies. Those subspecies can range in colour from a dark black colour to a light grey-blue hue.
Despite the vicious carnivore reputation that bears tend to have, black bears are omnivores (they eat a variety of things). Their diet includes fruits, insects, fish, larvae, nuts, plants, and meat. Bears are very easily habituated (used to humans), and will often turn to human garbage and other human-associated food sources often resulting in the bear being killed as a nuisance. Black Bears have also been known to hunt deer, elk and small moose, and can even go after livestock such as cows, sheep, and even honey bees.
3. Smarter than the average bear:
Featuring a very impressive brain-to-body mass-ratio black bears are incredibly intelligent. You could even say they’re smarter than the average bear! In studies they have been proven to be able to count and remember how to do many rudimentary tasks including problem solving. It’s because of this level of intelligence that people have gone to extreme lengths to develop containers and methods to keep garbage and food safe from their crafty paws, heck we have to put infographics on our bins so guests can figure them out.
Do you ever think to yourself, “I wish I could just sleep through winter rather than having to put up with the cold?” Well American black bears have evolved to do just that. After crawling under a tree stump or log they prepare a cozy little bed to go into and sleep away the crummy weather. During the hibernation process they lower their metabolism and heart rate drastically from around 50 beats per minute down to 10 and body temperature from 38 degrees C to only 33. During hibernation black bears don’t eat, drink, urinate, or defecate. By the spring the bears will have lost around half of their body fat but almost none of their muscle. Pregnant bears usually give birth to their babies during the hibernation period. On average 1-2 cubs are born, but sometimes moms have as many as six cubs. The cubs weigh about 1 pound when they are born in January but grow to nearly 5 pound by the time they emerge from the den in April. Those cubs will stay with their mother and hibernate with her the following winter. However after that hibernation the cubs are kicked out of the den to go off on their own.
5. What to do if you encounter a bear/ tips on how to stay safe in bear territory:
While black bears almost always actively avoid humans, there are some things you can do to lessen the chance of coming across one while out enjoying nature. These things include bear bells or simply having a pleasant conversation with the person you are hiking with, if the bears can hear you they will usually avoid you. Other ways to avoid bears would be to steer clear of spots that the bears are often hanging around such as the local dump or near dumpsters.
If you do find yourself face to face with a bear you should make some noise and make yourself known, this will almost always scare the bear off and resolve the situation. Another thing to remember is to never run away but do not approach, make yourself look large and intimidating. Bears may display defensive behaviour, this may look like stomping the ground, making a snorting, grunting, or teeth gnashing noise, or doing a bluff charge. The bear is not looking for a fight but is trying to tell you that you are too close, in this case continue to make noise but very slowly back away increasing the distance between you and them. Continue to face the bear until you are a fair distance away then leave the area immediately. This type of encounter is incredibly rare with black bears and will almost always happen when a mother is trying to defend her cubs.
Black bears are incredible animals that have so many interesting things about them, this article only scratched the surface of the things there are to know. I would encourage you to read into this topic further because it is truly interesting. Just remember when you see bears here in Killarney; that you are in their home and we should all respect that.