The term black bear can be a very misleading term as not all black bears are black! Black bears actually have a range in color from white to cinnamon to black.
I’ll never forget the first bear I saw in the wild. I was interning at a wildlife park in Idaho working hands on with bears and other North American wildlife. Alan came to visit me for a weekend and we ventured up into Yellowstone National Park for the day. We were stuck in a very common traffic jam, which turned out to be a bear jam. As we sat there “patiently” waiting for traffic to get moving, ahead of us, running straight at our car was a little brown colored black bear… with the ranger chasing him just a few feet behind. I’ll admit I was horrified by the actions of the ranger as I didn’t even see bear mace in his hand, but I think he was just trying to chase the bear off the road for the safety of the tourists and the bear.
And I swear as that little bear ran by us, he looked right at us!
I’ve had the privilege of seeing many bears, both black bear and grizzly bear, in the wild since this experience. I’ve worked hands on with black bears, grizzly bears, and sloth bears, and even hand raised black bear cubs. And no matter what, it is still magical every time I see them.
Cool black bear facts:
- There is a part of British Columbia that is home to the spirit bear or the kermode bear, a white phased black bear. About 1/10 of the black bear population is this part of the country is in the white phase. It is caused by a recessive gene. A black mom can give birth to white cubs, and a white mom can give birth to black cubs.
- There is a blue phased black bear, called a glacier bear. Their coats have a silverish-grey color. They are found in Southeast Alaska.
- Black bears are omnivores. A majority of their diet is made up of grasses, berries, and roots. However, they are very opportunistic eaters, which is why they easily develop a taste for human food.
- Black bear cubs are born during the bears winter sleep, using at the end of January, beginning of February.
- Black bears are not true hibernaters! They do go into a winter torpor. Here is a great explanation of a bears winter sleep: http://www.bigcat.org/news/the-truth-about-bears-and-hibernation
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