Nearly all eastern North American black bears are jet black, often with a white chest patch. Frequently in western and southern ranges, individual bears may have coats that are blond, cinnamon, light or dark brown or variations and mixtures of these colours. Along the coastal St Elias mountains of British Columbia and adjacent Alaska, bluish-tinged bears occur. White to cream-coloured bears inhabit some coastal islands and the adjacent mainland of BC but these are never in the majority.
Adults are usually 150-180 cm long. Tail length is about 12 cm. Males usually weigh 115-270 kg, females 92-140 kg. Sharp, curved, black claws enable black bears to climb trees easily. Their gait when unmolested is usually a lumbering walk but they can run about 45 km per hour and also swim well. Black bears tend to be most active at night but may feed or travel at any time.
In wilderness areas the diet of the black bear is about 95% vegetation and about 5% insects, mammals and birds. These percentages can vary dramatically when the bears come in contact with humans. Then garbage, grain crops, honey bees and even domestic livestock may be consumed. Black bears are hunted for sport, to eliminate them as nuisances and for meat and skin.
Black bears do not truly hibernate but enter a state of lethargic sleep. They become fat with the approach of cold weather and sleep for about 125 days, beginning as early as October and extending into May (shorter in warmer climates). Body temperature drops from 38° C to 31-34° C, respiration slows and the metabolic rate declines.
Reproduction and Development
The mating season extends from June to mid-July. The developing embryo does not implant until autumn, and embryonic development lasts only 10 weeks. The birth of 1-3 naked, blind cubs occurs during the hibernation period, January-February. The female does not emerge from the den until the cubs' eyes open and they can follow her. Vocalization of the cubs often consists of shrill howls; adult bears more often "woof."
Black Bear Black bears, the most common and widespread in Canada, may also be brown or cinnamon (Corel Professional Photos).
Links to Other Sites Natural History Notebooks
View illustrated descriptions of a huge variety of Canadian animal species, prehistoric creatures, and endangered/extinct animals. A Canadian Museum of Nature website.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.
Hinterland Who's Who
Check out the extensive "Hinterland Who's Who" website for illustrated "Species Fact Sheets" about mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects found in Canada. Also covers related conservation and biodiversity issues and includes related multimedia and educational resources. From the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
View an online collection of Paul Nicklen's outstanding nature photographs. Click on each image to access photos of seals, polar bears, whales, walruses, Arctic landscapes, and much more. Note: requires Flash Player.
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