Black Bear (Ursus Americanus) Black bear facts
Nearly 6000-7000 strong in New York State, the Black Bear is the smallest of the three species of bear in North America. From nose to tip of the tail a black bear can range from 4 -7 feet in length and 2-3 feet to the shoulders when walking on all fours.
Black bear weight tends to vary according to age, sex, health, and season. Large males can reach 600 lbs with the average being between 150-300 lbs. Females tend to be a bit smaller, but can also reach greater weights under the right conditions. Pre-den weights tend to be 30% higher than in spring, when black bears emerge from their dens. The largest reported bear in New York State weighed approximately 750 lbs (live weight).
Across North America Black Bear color can vary widely, but here in New York almost all bears are jet black. Typically they live in largely forested areas, but will leave the forest in search of food. They sometimes show up in human communities where there is the immediate availability of food and can be quite troublesome for the community. This is true in many of the Adirondack State Parks during the summer camping season. Steps have been taken in these parks to reduce the availibility of exposed garbage as to not attract the bears. Feeding black bears is prohibited in New York State.
Black bears tend to be territorial and mark their territories by rubbing their bodies against trees and clawing at the bark. There short, non-retractable claws also make them excellent tree climbers.
Black bears are Omnivorous and about 85% of their diet consists of vegatation... berries, fruits, plants and nuts... but also will eat salmon, insects, small mammals and carrion. Occasionally they may even kill young deer, as well as, moose calves, and even some small livestock like sheeps and goats. Although they tend to be solitary animals (except for mothers and cubs) and usually will forage for food alone, yet it is possible to see them in small groups if there is an abundant food source in the area.
Yes, it is true that bears eat honey. Black bears are very fond of honey, and will actually gnaw through trees to get to a hive that is too deep for them to reach with their paws. Once they reach the hive they will scrape the honeycombs together with their paws and eat them, regardless of stings from the bees. In fact, they will sometimes eat the bees as well.
Do Black Bears Hibernate?
Although Black Bears can become dormant for as many as 4-5 months during the winter, they are not considered true hibernaters since they are able to awaken if disturbed.
When and for how long they settle in for a long winters nap depends on local weather conditions and availability of food. Females however are giving birth during this time and will remain denned throughout the winter months, males and females without cubs may leave their dens from time to time.
While denned (hibernating), black bear do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate. Metabolism is reduced to 25% of normal with body temperatures reaching as low as 86 degrees and heart rate to a little as 9-10 beats.
Black Bear Attacks
Unlike the grizzly bear, black bears rarely attack when confronted by humans, usually limiting themselves to mock charges, blowing noises and swatting the ground.
Female black bears do not display the same level of protectiveness to their cubs as a grizzly either, and seldom attack humans in their vicinity. Although black bear attacks are extremely rare and most do not result in death, black bear attacks do happen and are sometimes fatal.