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"BC Bears"

Did you know British Columbia has some of the highest populations of American Black Bears in the world!

The majority of British Columbia is known to be 'Bear Country' with an estimated 150,000 Black Bears calling it home. Although known as black bears their colour varies considerably from black all the way through to the rare white 'Spirit' or 'Kermode' bear found mostly on Princess Royal Island, British Columbia. The brown or cinnamon coloured black bears can often be falsely identified as a Grizzly bear due to their colour, however Grizzlies are 3 to 4 times the size and have a large distinctive muscular hump on their backs located between their shoulder blades.

Despite these genetic variations, most bears here in BC are indeed black in colour and many have 'V' shaped white markings/patches on their chests.


Adult Black Bears can grow up to 1.9m tall and weigh in up to 300kg! They have sharp, curved black claws allowing them to climb efficiently and tear open old tree trunks and logs in search for food. Unlike other animals these claws are non retractile and so they walk on their soles of their feet. Their ears are small, curved but slightly more pointed than a Grizzly's.

One Hell of a Nose!

Black bears have a long powerful nose that's capable of smelling a steak cooking on a BBQ over a mile away! Their sense of smell is 7 times more powerful than a dog's and have one of the most powerful noses of the animal kingdom.


How about their Diet?

Although black bears are classified as Carnivores, their diet is mostly of an Omnivorous nature. This meaning that their diet mostly consists of berries, plants, fruits, acorns, pine cones, roots, insects and honey. They're however opportunist predators and will hunt moose calves and deer fawns during the Spring season, and any other meat such as other mammals or birds that they can get their hands on.


During the Spring and Summer seasons they consume up to 5,000 calories every day but in the Fall they will eat over 20,000 calories per day in order to put on enough fat to see them through their Winter hibernation period.


Do Bears actually Hibernate?

Black bears enter their dens as early as October each year and remain there for around 125 days through until the Spring in April/May. Technically a bears hibernation is known as a 'torpor' as they enter a lighter state of sleep. They lower their heart rate to between 8 and 12 beats per minute, respiration slows and their metabolic rate reduces. Despite this their body temperature only drops around 12 degrees.


They don't eat or use the bathroom at all during this hibernation period. This would be fatal for most other animals on our planet due to levels of ammonia reaching toxic levels, however bears are expert recyclers! Their Kidneys almost completely shut down and urea (a major component of urine) is recycled into proteins that help sustain and maintain a bear's muscle mass. Despite this they can lose up to 40% of their body weight over the Winter period demonstrating the importance of stocking up on fat levels prior to entering their den.

Cute little Cubs

Black bears tend to be solitary animals with the exception to mum with cubs and male and females together during their breeding season. The bears breeding season tends to fall around June/July time each year. Following breeding all female bear species go through a process known as delayed implantation. Essentially she puts her pregnancy process on 'pause'. She then spends the remaining months feeding and building up her fat levels prior to entering her den around Oct/Nov time. Before the embryo implants into the uterus her body automatically assesses her energy and fat levels. If she hasn't managed to stock up enough winter fats she will automatically reabsorb the pregnancy as a survival mechanism. If she has built up enough fats to sustain herself and potentially between 1 and 5 cubs her body will then 'continue' the pregnancy process.

Her cubs are born in the den during hibernation and only weigh around half a pound at birth. She will nurse them and clean up after them during the rest of their time in the den. Mum and cubs will emerge from their dens in the Spring, usually a couple of weeks after the males. Cubs will stay with mum for 12 to 18 months before going off on their own. This usually means (as long as food supplies are sufficient) females will breed every other year.


How can we protect our Black Bears?

Although black bears are not a species of high conservation concern this doesn't mean that we shouldn't be protecting their populations. There is also the main issue of rapidly growing human populations that are constantly extending into bear territories. Bears are extremely attracted to our high calorific foods and waste which can lead to conflicts in 'bear country' between bears and humans. It is therefore really down to us to ensure a peaceful coexistence of bears and humans can continue in these areas.


How can you help?
  • Keep your distance (at least 100 metres) and give them space.

  • "A fed bear is a dead bear". Human food habituation is a primary reason bears get destroyed in BC, so keep them wild and safe by storing your food correctly.

  • Keep dogs on a leash.

Bear Safety
  • Don’t go alone: Hike, bike and camp with a buddy or a group so you make more noise and help to alert bears of your presence.

  • Bring bear spray: Bear spray is an extremely effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Learning how to use it and always packing it on trips!

What to Do if You See a Bear
  • Stop, speak in a calm voice and back away slowly. Check the area for bear cubs and other bears as you do. Never go near a bear cub, as it may provoke the mother bear to attack.

  • DO NOT RUN as it could trigger the bear’s natural instinct to chase.

  • Raise your arms above your head to look as big as possible.

  • Recognise the signs of a bear attack. A bear that is growling, popping its jaw, or has its ears laid back is warning you that you’re too close.

  • Bears will often bluff charge, stopping short of actual contact. As hard as it sounds, don’t panic; running, waving your arms, or attacking the bear will only provoke it.

  • If you are attacked by a defensive bear (defending food, cubs, or making lots of noise prior to an attack) drop to the ground face down and try to protect your stomach and vital organs. You have invaded the bear’s space; it’ll threaten you, knock you down and leave.

  • In the rare case you are attacked by a predatory bear, it’ll approach quietly, low to the ground with its ears back. In this case, fight back HARD. Use any deterrent or weapon you have to stop the bear.

A few helpful sources:



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