SciSun: Fairly Bear   Leave a comment

May is, officially and by order of the US Congress, ‘Bear Aware’ Month. No Congressmen were injured while bears lobbied for this resolution.

While it’s always a good idea to be aware of bears during any month, the Spring months of March – June are when Black Bear (Ursus americanus) wake from hibernation and begin seeking out food to settle their empty stomachs (all of Spring is breakfast time to a bear). But more than being ‘aware’, this is a particularly responsible time for humans, as the more intelligent species (well, that’s still up for discussion), to take actions and, generally, be aware that to a bear anything that looks or smells like food could actually be food; and anything that’s food is meant to be eaten. While a bears normal diet consists of berries, plants, nuts, roots, honey, honeycomb, insects, larvae, carrion (dead animals) and sometimes small animals, when very hungry black bears aren’t ashamed to try out anything that just might be edible: Bird food; dog food; garbage; soap and candles; even air freshener or any products with sweet or pleasant smells is easily mistaken as food to a hungry bear. Locking these items up in a chest or backyard shed won’t help as a bear can tear open a locked cooler or typical door in seconds. But even though strong and hungry, black bears usually avoid human contact and become aggressive only if there is no escape or they feel threatened and in danger. Just like the old saying, they are more afraid of you, than you are of them. Every year more people are attacked by domestic dogs, wasps and hornets, other humans, or struck by lightning than are injured by black bears. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be a little afraid – and very respectful – of an animal that could weigh twice as much as a full grown man, able to knock down a tree or easily move boulders weighing hundreds of pounds.

Thousands of years ago black bears were not the most formidable animal in the forest, and this might be one reason why today these bears would rather just be left alone and rarely attack unless provoked. The grizzly or brown bear (Ursis arctos horribilis); american lion (Panthera leo atrox); sabre-tooth cat (Smilodon sp.); giant short-faced bear (Arctodus sp.); and dire wolves (Canis dirus) were predators that evolved, along with the black bear, during the Pleistocene Epoch, about one hundred thousand to ten thousand years ago. All, except the brown bear, are today extinct, possibly due to man, but in their time each was larger, stronger, probably more territorial and dangerous than the black bear. So, of all north american bears, the black learned to climb trees and stay, literally, on top of trouble; which the bear continues to do today, running, climbing, and generally keeping away from anything it thinks is dangerous.

Mistaking 'bear aware month' for just plain 'BEAR MONTH', this group assumes treats are being handed out and the cars bumper sticker isn't really a rule, just a guideline.

Mistaking ‘bear aware month’ for just plain ‘BEAR MONTH’, this group assumes treats are being handed out and the cars bumper sticker isn’t really a rule, just a guideline.


The ‘average’ black bear also sports a variety of colors, appearing not only in basic black but also blonde, cinnamon, tan, reddish, and the very rare grey-ish white. Some bear even change color when they’re young, most typically moving from lighter to darker shades, until they settle on one color for most of their 25 – 30 year lifespan. During the extreme drought now in California and much of the West, life can be challenging to black bears – and all wildlife – particularly the babies that were recently born, and juvenile bears (teen-bears, probably filled with angst) that go out on their own to find a new territory. With dwindling water and fewer sources of natural food our human campsites, backyards and garbage cans can be a dangerous fascination to bears, who return again and again once they locate an easy source of food. ‘Nuisance’ bears that frequent garbage dumps have been trapped and released miles away, only to reappear. Once Ursus americanus becomes Ursus habituous – a ‘bear of habit’ – sometimes the only action left to officials is to kill the bear so he doesn’t become dangerous to humans and other bears who follow the first bears lead to easy and reliable food. While the black bear isn’t an officially threatened or endangered species, it’s only through our action – or inaction – that could lead to the death of an animal that’s just trying to find something to eat.

By keeping temptations away from bears: Storing food and food-like items in proper containers; not encouraging bears to come near our cars or homes; and appreciating the bear for the wild animal it is, all of us could learn to live together. It works for Hemlock Farms, Pennsylvania, a town where there are about three bears per square mile, an average higher than in any national park, and it’s not unusual for bears to pass through neighborhoods every day. By respecting each other, man and bear can live side by side. It’s only fair, to the bear.


Michonne Says: Bears should know better than to eat man food. Sometimes it smells bad or tastes like old dry leaves or makes your stomach hurt later. But I wouldn’t know about this myself, it’s just what I’ve heard.


Posted May 10, 2015 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in ECOVIA Central

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