The life and times of wildlife is an amazing to study; for example, did you know that a genus of beaver was once the size of a bear, and the horse was the size of a German shepherd? But, personally, other than facing a mad wolverine, I would say that the black bear is the most mistrusted creature in all of North America.
The study of wildlife, along with the study of ethology (study of animal behaviour, especially in natural conditions), is one of the most interesting subject matters, especially when you jump back a few million years.
We consider the black bear to be a large animal; and the beaver, a small animal. But back in time, the beaver was a large as today’s black bear. Evolution is an amazing thing, as even we humans were known for “monkeying around.”
It’s questionable what the average person actually knows about bears. Humans sometimes stretch upwards to see something a little farther away. Well, the bear does this also, as proven in the accompanying photo. Should you encounter a black bear and see it standing on its back legs, it is trying to get a better look at what could be its next meal. The black bear will also lean against something to be able to scratch its back. (Certainly I have done the same.)
A word to the wise for mushroom pickers … mushrooms, seemingly, are a tasty treat for black bears; so, when you go mushroom picking, dont forget to carry bear spray. (Just because a bear may be eating mushrooms, and you don’t want to be mistaken for a mushroom).
Also, on our property, back in Ontario, I often watched deer feeding on poison ivy, with no ill effects. So, another word to the wise: Don’t believe that you can eat anything an animal can.
Back to the subject at hand … If you think you can outrun a black bear, think again. An Olympic female runner (on a back trail in Quebec) came face to face with a black bear. She turned and attempted to outrun it, but the bear was faster and caught up with her and killed her within 30 yards. Also, a black bear can outclimb you in a race to the top of a tree.
Black bears come in several colours. I have seen a black bear with a rust-coloured coat; a black bear with a white face and throat; and, I have seen a black bear, with a white-coloured throat, that had been raised in captivity and taken to shows.
Generally, a bear that has put on a good number of pounds will settle down for its winter sleep around the end of November. If food is in short supply, the bear may not go into its winter deep sleep until much later. Depending on a number of factors, a bear may wake up at any time, during winter, and leave its den for short periods.
Spring is a dangerous time to encounter a bear, especially a female with cubs. She will attack anything if she fears her young are in harm’s way. It is strongly advised, when walking along roads or trails, that hikers carry bear spray (and that they check the expiry date).
If you come across a bear in a cave or enclosure, during winter, don’t be fooled about hibernation (it is what is called a “deep sleep”). If you don’t believe this, give the bear three good jabs, with a sharp stick, and if you come out of the cave at the same pace you walked into it, I will be in my car, waiting, with a hundred bucks to give you.