Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

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Everybody's favorite animals. I give a 1.5-hour program on bears in the summer, so this could get long, but I'll just throw out a bit of bear trivia.

  • Bears weigh about what humans do. There is a misconception that typical bears are 300 to 500 pounds. In fact, an article in Backpacker magazine and a brochure given out by the National Parks Foundation says that the average Yosemite bear is 350 pounds. Actually, far from it. There is not a single known (tagged and weighed) bear in the park that weighs that much. In fact, the Californian Department of Fish and Game, which weighs over 1500 bears taken by hunters each year says that the average male bear weighs 86 kilos (190 pounds) and the average female bear weighs 50 kilos (110 pounds). I've looked at the number for 38 tagged bears in Yosemite (full list minus a 26-pound cub that was weighed) and found the average weight of a tagged bear in Yosemite in 2011 to be 154 pounds, with the median at a mere 137.5 pounds. The heaviest bear was a 294-pound twenty year-old male. So let's just say that there is no way the average Yosemite bear is 350 pounds, no matter where you might read that.
  • Bears love to eat. 85% of their diet is vegetarian. The other 15% is mostly insects, grubs and carrion. For the most part, black bears are not hunters. You won't see them down at the rivers fishing. You need to go to a salmon run with grizzly bears to see that. Except on the most rare occasions, you won't find them chasing deer or squirrels or, like their grizzly brethren, digging huge craters to get at ground squirrels. You will see them eating grass, flowers, apples, manzanita berries, sugar pine cones, acorns, ants and grubs, maybe a deer that has been killed by a mountain lion or coyotes. In the summer they will, however, eat up to 5,000 calories per day. In the autumn, when trying to pack on fat for hibernation, they may eat 20,000 to 25,000 calories per day.
  • The biggest threat to bears inside the park are driving too fast and leaving food unattended. Bears, if treated with a modicum of respect, are not a threat to us, but we are a threat to them. If you want to know how to protect Yosemite bears, read my ironic article on How to Bag a Yosemite Bear Without Firing a Shot
  • Bears are incredible hibernators. During periods of inactivity, humans lose muscle and fat in similar proportions. After a winter of inactvity and a starvation diet, bears will have lost only a tiny bit of muscle mass, but huge amounts of fat.

I have tons of bear pictures, many much better than these, but these were the ones I could find quickly. Hopefully I'll have some better ones next time you come.

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