Remember: always follow the Leave No Trace principles when out in the wild.

Wildlife:Mammal/Black Bear

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American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)
American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

The American Black bare is one of the most common bears in North America. There are actually a number of different "black bear" species, and not all of them are black! In fact, if you spend time in some of the national parks in California, chances are you'll see a brown (cinnamon) colored bear.

Don't Feed the Bears!

Black bears typically do not attack humans. However, black bears are known to become aggressive after they find high energy human food. This is why it is important to use appropriate food storage while in the wild. Black bears are usually active during the day. However, after black bears have come accustomed to human food and finding leftovers from meals, black bear's behavior may change and they will become active at night when humans are usually asleep.

Black bears are attracted to any strong sent, and have been known to rip open cars to get at things such as empty coolers, insect repellent, and scented tissue paper. In recent years (2007) black bears have attacked children.

The united states national park service offers these instructions for dealing with black bear encounters (Note: instructions for grizzly bears are different as they are a more aggressive species):

  • Natural Areas:
    • Stay together (especially small children).
    • Give the bear(s) lots of room (300 feet or more).
    • Don't get between a sow and her cubs.
    • Don't linger too long.
  • Developed Areas (camp grounds)
    • Check to make sure all you food and food-related items are stored properly.
    • Get everyone together (especially kids) and look really big and make lots of noise (bang pots and pans, etc.).
    • Never surround a bear - they need an escape route!
    • Never separate a sow from her cubs (sometimes cubs are up a nearby tree).
    • If a bear huffs at you and shows its profile, it may be ready to bluff charge. Stand your ground or back away slowly. Do not run.
    • Never try to take food back from a bear!

If you do have food out and a black bear is looking at you, do not turn your back to the bear. Showing your back to the black bear, according to a Campgrounds and Trails:USA/California/NPS/Yosemite National Park|Yosemite] park ranger, is a signal which means "I'm finished, come eat my food."

A ranger once told me that they used to tell people to throw rocks at bears to scare them away. This stopped after, in 1996, when a group of boy scouts stoned a bear to death in Yosemite National Park.

If a black bear makes a "Bluff charge", stand as tall as you can, and wave your hands in the air. This makes the bear think you're really big. Also make lots of noise. See the NPS website for more information.

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