Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: the Black Bear

The boys and I are going camping this weekend with my cousins.  Sherri booked our campsites and immediately called to tell me that the reservations came with a warning about bears.

This doesn't have me as freaked out as I will likely be laying in the darkness Saturday night, but it still seemed appropriate to make this Wildlife Wednesday about the North American Black Bear.

(Clipart photo.  I've never been this close.)

Black bears are the only bear native to Maryland. They were once found throughout the state, but now only live in the western mountains. Loss of habitat and indiscriminate hunting nearly eliminated black bears from in the state by the 1960s.  But black bears have proved adaptable and are making a comeback.  No longer on the endangered species list, Maryland now holds a lottery for black bear hunting licenses.  It's estimated that 600 black bears currently live in Maryland.

Black bears are omnivores and will eat just about anything, but mostly survive on berries, nuts, insects, small reptiles, fish and various vegetation. Adults typically weigh between 125 and 400 pounds.  That's the equivalent of eight Matthews!

Black bears are not as aggressive as their grizzly relatives, but they're still a large wild animal deserving respect. Never feed a bear. 

My favorite bit of bear research?  According to the Maryland DNR, no humans have ever been attacked by a black bear in Maryland.

Most interesting bear fact?  Bears don't actually growl, not even when threatened.

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Sources and Further Reading

"Be Bear Aware," Center for Wildlife Information (Matt highly recommends this particular link--silly video of a bear scratching his back)

"Black Bear Encounters," Maryland Department of Natural Resources

"Maryland Black Bear History and Management," Maryland Department of Natural Resources

"Maryland Black Bear Education Videos" (more about tracking and hunting), Maryland Department of Natural Resources

North American Bear Center

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