What is that gold “ribbon” stretched across the yard, Bethany wondered when she returned home. She soon remembered the shelled corn stored in a metal garbage can, which we intended to feed deer. Yes, the can was knocked over and the sack of corn had been dragged to the woods, spilling corn all the way. A bear, she quickly figured out, had stopped by for a visit. Hearing a few sounds behind the storage barn, she took a peek. There was the thief–a young bear with the stolen corn sack, about 10 yards away.
Another evening our 4-year-old son Marlin, looking out of the window, announced a bear was walking in our lane. The bear ambled into the open garage, rummaged around and soon knocked down a box containing a mineral block, also intended for deer.
Both of these bears were just doing what bears do…following their super-sensitive noses to food. By huffing out warm, moist breath, a bear enhances its ability to pick up faint smells. Their hearing is superb too, with eyesight being their weakest sense. They can see colors, though, and have good close-up vision.
Bears eat fruit, nuts, ants, honey, grass roots, small animals, fish and occasionally carrion. When fattening up for hibernation, bears may feed 20 hours a day. They have been described as “big black eating machines.” Bears have very large home areas, and will roam miles in search of food, if necessary. In salmon country, bears wade rivers, feasting on the spawning salmon.
While bear populations are increasing in many states, they are seldom seen because of their keen senses and their desire to not be seen. Bears feel most at home in thick, dark, rough terrain where people seldom go. Bears may opt to hide rather than run, when people happen by. They have been known to stand up behind a tree and peek around with one eye, moving around the tree as the intruder passes.
The black bear may not be black. In the West, black bears can be brown, cinnamon, and occasionally blonde. There is even a white subspecies in British Columbia.
Bears are not true hibernators. While their heart and respiration rates slow down, fat keeps their body temperature from reducing drastically. Bears den in hollow trees, under brush piles, and in rocky ledges. One bear was observed making a den 96 feet up a tree.
Nuisance bears are sometimes captured and relocated. But relocated bears often travel back “home,” and one traveled 150 miles to do so.
Bears do not have many natural enemies. Man is their main enemy; however, falling from trees, starvation and occasionally predation can kill young bears. Close to our home, a bear cub with a radio-tracking device was found dead from a poisonous snakebite.
- Cubs are born during hibernation. Two are most common, but as many as 5 or 6 can be born.
- Cubs are born blind, nearly hairless, and weighing about ½ pound.
- Females usually have cubs every two years, though they can every year if there is a good food supply. Where food is not abundant they may have cubs only every 3 years.
- Bears are strong swimmers. In fresh water, they can swim a mile and a half. In the Gulf of Mexico, one bear swam 9 miles.
- Lean bears can run over 30 miles per hour.
- Bears use powerful “arms” to rip apart logs and stumps and overturn rocks in their search for ants and grubs.
- Bears can curl their lips and grasp much like an opossum can grasp a limb with its tail. This ability allows the bear to pick berries one at a time.
- Soft pads on the feet enable even a large bear to walk through the forest almost silently.
- Bears are among the most intelligent animals in North America.
“Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11