The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the smallest bear species inhabiting North America. Black bears range from Alaska to Mexico, including 40 states in the United States. Black bears historically ranged throughout out most of the forests of North America. Historic populations of black bears declined from habitat loss and overexploitation. However, black bear populations are currently growing and their range is rapidly expanding. Black bears inhabit various types of habitat, including as hardwood forests, dense swamps, and forested swamps.
Black bears are the only species of bear found in the eastern United States. They range from 100-300 pounds; however, males have been recorded up to 700-800 pounds. Adult black bears range from 2.5-3.0 feet high when on all fours, 5-7 feet tall when standing upright and 4-7 feet in length from the nose to tail. The average life span is 10 years, but may live up to 25 years in the wild. identification feature for black bears is the lack a shoulder hump that grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) have. The black bear also has longer and more pointed ears than the grizzly bear.
Black bears exhibit variation in their color, ranging from black to light blonde. In eastern United States, black bears typically are black in color. In western United States, their colors can vary from cinnamon, blonde, brown and black. Identification based on color is not fully accurate. A key identification feature for black bears is the lack a shoulder hump that grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) have. The black bear also has longer and more pointed ears than the grizzly bear.
During the past two decades, most American black bear populations have grown in size and range. As the black bear population increase and urban development also increases, conflicts between humans and black bears have begun to rise.
NUISANCE BLACK BEARS
As black bears continue to expand their range, problems with humans are inevitable. Due to their opportunistic feeding behavior, problems develop when the bears find easy sources of food. Common nuisances that occur are: feeding/destroying bird feeders, destroying/feeding out of trash cans, damage to crops including corn and honey, damage to outdoor grills, damage to trees and damage to property such as entering garden sheds, out buildings and occasionally homes. Once a bear learns to associate a location with food they will keep returning and bears that approach one house for food may also approach other houses.
There are several management strategies available to deal with nuisance bears. The strategies fall into two categories: non-lethal and lethal control. However, the easiest step is to take a proactive approach, prior to developing nuisance bear problems. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and are often attracted to areas that could be a possible food source.
Proactive approaches that you can take to prevent the possibility of attracting bears to areas include:
- Do not garbage outside of houses or garages or use bear proof garbage cans
- Clean garbage cans and other refuse containers frequently
- Mask food odors in garbage cans
- Remove grease from grills and clean thoroughly after every use
- Do not place food outside to attract wildlife
- Do not feed bears
- Take bird feeders down in the summer time, when bears are actively feeding
- Protect beehives and livestock with electric fencing
If you are unsure if your property could potential attract black bears, Loomacres staff can assist. By conducting a site analysis, we can determine if there are attractants present and what steps can be taken to remove the attractants.
By: Shawn Ferdinand,
Loomacres Wildlife Management
© Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved
Black bears are omnivorous, feeding on plants, fruits, nuts, insects, honey, fish, small mammals and carrion. Black bears are also known to occasionally eat fawns and small moose calves. There are also reports of black bears depredating livestock. The bears are an opportunistic feeder, which means that they will eat any food item they find available, including people’s garbage and bird seed.
Black bears are listed as a game species in many states and providences in North America. Many states have specific laws
and regulations regarding hunting seasons and harvest quotas.
A subspecies of the American black bear, the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) is listed as federally threatened, with populations known or believed to occur in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The subspecies may not be harassed, provoked or harvested by any means. For more information on black bear hunting regulations, please visit your states fish and wildlife authority’s web site.
BLACK BEARS AT AIRPORTS
Black bears are not listed on the FAA top 25 most hazardous species to aviation; however; do to their large body size, that have the potential to cause significant damages during the event of a strike. In the FAA wildlife strike database, there are no strike incidents between an aircraft and black bears. There is a single event of a black bear mother and cubs on an airport, causing an aircraft to delay its departure.
Although the occurrence of black bears at airports is low, recent population increases could cause the bears to wander into new habitat areas in search of food and shelter. Airports should harass bears anytime they are seen on the airport to prevent the bear from becoming accustomed to the location and possible chance of finding a food source that brings them back into the area.
Non-lethal control methods are devised to alter the possibility of a bear being attracted to an area.
If you witness black bear damage on your property, Loomacres staff will assist you in working with your state wildlife agency to address the problem. Non-lethal methods that can be conducted by professionals include harassment and relocation
You should never attempt to harass black bears on your own. The harassment may violate state laws and can become a dangerous situation.
In the instance that non-lethal methods to deter nuisance bears have failed, lethal control is the last option. If you are in a location that allows black bear hunting, take advantage of hunting seasons and encourage hunters to use your property. If hunting is not allowed in your location, state wildlife agents can help remove the bear from the area.
BEING SAFE AROUND BEARS
As the bear population expands, people are more likely to cross paths with black bears. A few safe things to keep in mind if you happen to encounter a bear are:
- Do not panic. Bears are more likely to be afraid of you than you are of them
- Never approach, surround or attempt to touch a bear
- Always leave a clear escape route for the bear
- Back away slowly, but do not run.
- If the bear keeps coming or will not leave, make loud noises such as yelling, clapping, use a horn or drum on nearby objects