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The Bear Facts

male black bear (by Tom Harrison
June at a Glance: Yearlings leave mom and search for food, shelter and a place of their own. Adult males travel far and wide looking for mates. Nursing moms venture farther from home base searching for food. Cubs keep growing and developing. Spring lessons can be life-changing. Yearlings Move Out Bears that were born last spring and denned up with mom this past winter are now 18-month old yearlings. If all goes well, they’ll be the size of a medium-sized dog ...
Black bear cub in a tree
May at a Glance: All bears visit all the places where they reliably found food last year. Cubs learn how to climb up (and down) trees, and learn to “talk.” Cubs are still nursing, but start experimenting with bear food. Mother bears sometimes leave the youngsters alone and travel up to two miles to search for food. Cubs that are alone aren’t usually orphaned or abandoned. Home Alone, Not Abandoned If you come across a bear cub (or two or ...
April at a Glance: Most bears leave their dens for good. Cubs get their first look at their new world. Mother bears continue to nurse and keep their den and cubs clean. Bears that found human-provided foods last year head straight for these food sources. Long Winter’s Nap Ends By the end of April most bears have left their dens for good. The days lengthen, temperatures warm up and spring arrives, bringing with it nutritious spring grasses and budding ...
American black bear in water resting on log
March at a Glance: Some black bears leave their dens to walk around, stretch their legs and then go back to sleep. Other bears leave dens for good. Bears emerge skinny, groggy and thirsty and soon go looking for roughage. Newborn black bear cubs keep growing in their dens. Yearlings that denned up with mom last fall celebrate their first birthday. Bears get new “shoes.” Resetting the Bear Snooze Alarm Hibernating bears may temporarily leave their dens and do a ...
February at a Glance: Pregnant female black bears give birth. Cubs begin to grow. Bears snug in their dens live off fat reserves, recycle waste and by-products into useful amino acids and heal many injuries. Other bears don’t hibernate at all; they just reduce their activities and make day beds so they can take periodic naps. Dens turn into nurseries Pregnant female black bears give birth to an average of two to three cubs weighing less than a pound; they ...
black bear cubs in den, about 7 to 8 weeks old (Emily Carrollo, Pennsylvania Game Commission)
The fact that bears mate in summer and give birth seven or eight months later might make you think that bear pregnancies aren’t all that different from human ones. But even though bears mate in summer, they’re not officially pregnant until late fall. Nevertheless, they give birth a few short months later, in January or February. Why Bears Have a Two-Step Pregnancy Mother Nature has engineered a unique two-step pregnancy process for bears. During step one (mating), eggs are fertilized, ...
When you think about a bear den, what comes to mind? A hollow tree? A cozy cave? How about a pile of abandoned tires? Or under your porch? Bears can den up in all those places and many more. Bears are flexible, creative and opportunistic; they will crawl into dens just about anywhere they feel safe and out of sight. The stereotypical hollow tree makes a favorite den site as they are snug enough to conserve body heat but often ...
black bear and cub crossing highway
October at a Glance: Hyperphagia is in full-swing. Bears may be awake and searching for food up to 20 hours a day. Many bears also look for den sites. Some pregnant females may den up by the end of the month. As days shorten, vehicle collisions rise.    Bears Still Eating More, Sleeping Less Hyperphagia is still in full swing all over the country in October and will continue as long as food is available. Even bears that won’t hibernate ...
September at a Glance: Bears enter hyperphagia in September and may look for food up to 20 hours a day. Berries, nuts and acorns are important fall bear foods. Bears can gain two to three pounds a day. Even bears that don’t hibernate eat as if they’re going to. Moms-to-be look for a good birthing den and nursery.    Eating Goes Into Hyperdrive In the cooler days of September, most bears are very focused on finding as much food and ...
black bear swimming (courtesy of Minnesota Dept of Natural Resources)
August at a Glance: Bears have many ways to stay cool during hot summer days. By August, most cubs are weaned. Cubs can often survive on their own if they have to. Bears feast on ripening berries and may travel great distances to dependable food sources. Bears decipher complex messages left in the scents of other bears.   How Bears Beat the Heat Bears don’t have sweat glands and can’t take off their fur coats, so they can’t cool off ...
July at a Glance: By July, cubs born this year have grown to the size of a raccoon or a small dog with big ears. Yearling bears now on their own can be the size of medium dogs. Bears of both sexes mark trees and adult bears mate. Cubs smell their mother's breath to learn what's good to eat. Bears' great memories help them return to proven food sources. How to Tell the Difference Between a Cub and a ...
black bear silhouette
At least one part of the movie, Cocaine Bear, is actually based on facts. A black bear did die in the Georgia woods of a cocaine overdose in the fall of 1985. In the movie, the bear goes on a cocaine-induced rampage and attacks and kills eight people. In real life, the cocaine the bear ingested killed it in about 45 minutes. So what really happened? It was late fall in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia near the state's ...
Some people believe that bears are not true hibernators. Squirrels, bats, rodents, marmots and other true hibernators enter a state close to suspended animation where body temperatures fall close to freezing and metabolisms slow almost to a halt. A bear's metabolism, heartbeat and respiration rate drops dramatically, but its body temperatures only drops about 12 degrees during hibernation. They don't eat at all, nor do they go to the bathroom; bears' dens are remarkably clean and odor-free ... unlike true ...
Rest and repair: January finds bears across much of North America tucked snugly into their dens, living off the fat reserves they worked so hard to accumulate while their bodies rest and repair injuries. Exactly how bears do this is a mystery that scientists would love to solve. Just imagine if humans were able to “hibernate,” heal wounds without losing any muscle or bone mass and wake up months later fit and alert. Spend months asleep without going to the ...
Bears’ appetites are biologically programmed to go into hyperdrive in the fall because they need to put on a thick layer of life-sustaining fat before they turn in for the winter. This annual power-eating marathon is called hyperphagia. Hyperphagia is in full swing now because many fruits and berries (soft mast) are still available, calorie-dense acorns and nuts (hard mast) are ripening, and bears’ body clocks are ticking louder and louder. During hyperphagia, bears are like Olympic athletes in training. They ...