Black bear

Despite its formidable appearance, the black bear usually does not show aggression and does not pose a danger to humans. Living in almost the entire territory of North America and central Mexico, it chooses impenetrable forests and mountainous areas. In some areas, its species is threatened with complete extinction.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Black Bear

Photo: Black Bear

The black bear or, as it is also called, the baribal is a mammal of the order of carnivores, the bear family, the genus of bears. He is the most common bear in all of America. Its range is from Alaska, Canada, most US states and all of central Mexico. The history of the origin of the black bear has more than 12 thousand years. Its ancestor is an animal the size of a modern raccoon.

Video: Black bear

Since it went through evolution along with such large representatives of bears as the short-faced bear that disappeared about 10 thousand years ago and the grizzly bear that still exists, it is much smaller than them, more maneuverable and faster. He is also accustomed to living in untouched places such as caves, highlands, impenetrable forests, and swampy areas.

During the Middle Ages, the baribal was very widely represented throughout Europe, but it was exterminated and at the moment it is not found there. The Latin name American bear was given based on the territory of residence of this species, but it was given only after its extermination in the European part of the planet.

At the moment, scientists know 16 subspecies of the black bear. These include – glacial bear, needle black bear and so on. All subspecies differ from each other in habitat, eating habits, weight, size and other features. However, despite these differences, they make up one species – black bears. As the name implies, the distinguishing feature of this type of bear is thick, completely black fur.

Appearance and features

Photo: Animal black bear

Photo: Animal black bear

The American bear differs from its larger relatives in its average size.

  • body length — 170 centimeters;
  • tail — 8-12 centimeters;
  • height at the withers – up to 100 centimeters.

Among black bears, there are both small individuals not exceeding 60 kg, and huge bears weighing about 300 kg. The average weight is usually 150 kilograms. A significant variation in size is explained by the fact that in nature there are 16 subspecies that differ in weight. Males are usually significantly larger than females, by about one third.

A distinctive feature is a pointed muzzle, widely spaced, rather large ears. The paws are high, with short feet and sufficiently long nails, specially designed for climbing trees. The difference from its closest counterpart, namely the grizzly bear, is the absence of a shoulder hump and a low withers.

The coat of the American bear is short and shiny, completely black. It often happens that up to two years old baribal cubs have a light color, which then changes to black. Usually, a light spot of white, beige or light brown color can be observed just below the throat.

However, scientists have found other colors. One of the most common will be brown. Sometimes it happens that both black and brown cubs can be found in the same litter. More rare colors are blue-black and white-yellow, which is not a manifestation of albinism.

Life expectancy can reach 25 years, but about 90% of bears do not reach 2 years. The cause of death is usually hunters or poachers.

Where does the black bear live?

Photo: Great Black Bear

Photo: Great Black Bear

Baribala can be found virtually throughout Canada, Alaska, most US states, and even central Mexico. Its habitat is mainly lowland and mountain forests, but it can go out of them into open areas in search of prey. In mountainous areas, it can rise up to 3000 m above sea level.

In winter, the black bear hibernates. He can make a lair in the roots of trees, lining it with dry grass or leaves, or simply dig a small hole in the ground and lie down in it during a snowfall. The adaptation to wooded areas in black bears is most likely due to the fact that they have evolved along with larger and more aggressive species of bears, for example, the grizzly bear, extinct about 10,000 years ago, and still living, which captured the open area.

Also, baribals can be found in untouched, wild and rural places. They are able to adapt to living in suburban areas, provided there is enough food. Thus, the habitat of a black bear is an inaccessible area with dense vegetation and free access to food.

What does a black bear eat?

Photo: American Black Bear

Photo: American Black Bear

Baribal is an omnivore. His diet mainly consists of food of plant origin: grass, berries and fruits. It is worth noting that eating habits may vary depending on the area. Regardless of the habitat, the black bear feeds on high-carbohydrate foods and foods containing a low percentage of back and fat.

However, it can eat insects and their larvae, meat and fish. The meat in his diet mainly consists of carrion. The black bear feeds on vertebrates only in exceptional cases, since it is not an active predator.

It should be noted that those bears that consume foods high in protein significantly exceed their counterparts in weight and show increased fertility. A black bear can eat as much as it can fit into. Then he goes to sleep, and after that he starts looking for food again.

During hibernation and in spring, when there is a lack of food, the bear survives precisely thanks to the fat accumulated before wintering. In April and May, grass becomes the basis of baribal nutrition. In summer, food becomes more diverse, larvae, insects, berries, mushrooms and acorns appear in it. In areas of Alaska and Canada, when salmon spawn, baribals come to shallow water and fish.

In autumn, the black bear should already store enough subcutaneous fat. This issue is especially acute for females, because they will have to feed the cubs during the winter. Fat reserves save bears and help them survive the hungry time.

Thus, the diet of a black bear can be divided into:

  • food of plant origin (leaves, grass, berries, mushrooms, nuts);
  • worms;
  • worm larvae;
  • meat (mainly carrion and small rodents);
  • fish (salmon during spawning);
  • food of human origin (when an animal approaches a human dwelling).

Characteristics and lifestyle

Photo: Black bear in the forest

Photo: Black bear in the forest

Black bears are mostly solitary. The only exception is the mating period and the she-bear with cubs. They can also huddle in groups, in places where there is enough food. In this case, a hierarchy resembling a social one is built in the flock.

The period of activity is twilight or early morning. However, if required by the need to avoid meeting with other animals or people, it can lead a nocturnal lifestyle. Males mark their territory with scent to scare away other males. They mark territory, rub their backs against a tree. One bear occupies from 5 to 50 km2, although several females can be in the territory of one bear.

The end of autumn is the time of hibernation. Its duration is from 5 to 7 months, depending on climatic and other conditions. During its period, the bear's body temperature drops to 10 degrees Celsius. Baribal is far from being a clumsy bear. He is able to reach speeds of up to 55 km/h, swims well and can swim a couple of kilometers. The black bear is excellent at climbing trees, mainly thanks to the claws designed specifically for this. Thus, these bears are strong, agile, hardy and fast enough animals.

The black bear has an excellent sense of smell, surpassing a human one by a hundred times, he also has excellent hearing, a couple of times better than a human. Scientists note the high intellectual abilities and ingenuity of these animals. These bears are not aggressive at all. They try to avoid conflict, hide or run away. In relation to a person, they behave shyly and prefer not to attack, but to run away.

If a person met a baribal, he should not pretend to be dead, as they are scavengers, or try to climb a tree, because these bears they run great on them. To save him, scare the beast with a loud cry.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Black Bear Cubs

Photo: Black Bear Cubs

The territory of one male can enter the territory of a couple of females. Females in estrus meet with males. The estrus lasts from the beginning of the mating season until the actual mating. The mating season starts from June until the first half of July.

Until autumn, fertilized eggs are not implanted in the uterus. Taking into account the fact that implantation does not occur immediately, the duration of pregnancy lasts approximately 220 days, and only if a sufficient amount of subcutaneous fat is accumulated. It is only in the last 10 weeks that embryos develop.

Cubs are born in January or February, most often during hibernation. The number of cubs varies from 1 to 5. Usually there are 2-3 of them in a litter. When born, a black bear weighs only 200 or 400 grams. This is one of the smallest sizes of young mammals, compared with an adult.

Bear cubs are born blind and weak. During their mother's hibernation, they feed on her milk and stay with her. By spring, they reach from 2 to 5 kilograms. They stop feeding on milk at the age of 6-8 months, but leave their mother only when they reach 17 months. All this time, the mother teaches children the skills necessary for life. Males only indirectly participate in the upbringing of cubs, protecting them from possible dangers, without directly participating in their training.

Cubs are born in January or February, often during the mother's hibernation. The number of cubs varies from 1 to 5. Usually 2-3 cubs are born in a litter. A newborn baribal weighs from 200 to 400 grams. At birth, they are blind and defenseless. They live with their mother all winter and feed on her milk. By the beginning of spring, the weight of cubs reaches from 2 to 5 kilograms.

The female reaches sexual maturity at about 2 years or a little later. They can bear offspring only a year after full puberty. Males mature at the age of 3-4 years. However, their growth continues up to 10-12 years. That's when they become so big that they can dominate young bears without fighting them.

Natural enemies of black bears

Photo: Black bear Baribal

Photo: Black bear Baribal

Adult specimens are practically have no natural enemies. However, larger grizzly bears, cougars, packs of wolves and coyotes can pose some danger to them. Also in the American South, the pike alligator becomes a natural enemy of the baribal.

Scientists note that as soon as the total number of grizzly bears decreases in a certain range, the population of black bears increases sharply.

Young black bears often become prey for other larger individuals of bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars and other canine and feline representatives of the animal world. Smaller cubs may be attacked by larger predators.

Since this type of bear is not quite aggressive, it often becomes the subject of hunting by people. Their fat and bile are often used in medicine, many luxury items are made from fur, and their meat is also a delicacy.

Sometimes, when black bears wander into human territory, they can create significant inconvenience in the form of torn cattle and general destruction. Throughout history, only 58 cases of baribal attacks on humans have been recorded. Of particular danger comes from females with cubs.

The most common cause of black bear death is humans. Due to the activities of poachers and hunters in some areas, the baribal had to be taken under state protection.

Population and species status

Photo: Black Bear

Photo: Black Bear

Since the 1900s, the range of the baribal has been significantly reduced, however, thanks to animal protection measures, the black bear began to spread again in its usual areas of residence. Researchers note that in national parks and reserves, their population is rapidly increasing.

At the moment, there are about 600 thousand baribals in the world, most of which live in the northern part of America. The prevalence of bears varies greatly, if in one area there are about 30 thousand of them, then in another area there are practically none. In Mexico, their species is on the verge of extinction, because of this, hunting for these animals is prohibited there.

However, in some places hunting for a black bear is allowed. Fur, meat and fat are highly valued on the black market. The paws and gallbladder of the baribal are traditionally used in Asian folk medicine. Since ancient times, these ingredients have been considered a source of strength and longevity.

Thus, the famous black hats of the English guards were made from the fur of these animals. For example, in 1950 alone, about 800 bears were killed. Also, these bears are shot, as they are considered pests. They can attack livestock, destroy gardens, fields and bee apiaries, but the damage from them is greatly exaggerated.

The black bear constantly faces dangers. Due to the destruction of its habitual habitat, environmental degradation and constant shooting in some areas, it has been threatened with extinction. However, now everything possible is being done to preserve the view.

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