Local birds









Bears of Canada and North America                           

Black Bear and Grizzly Bear  Notes



Black Bears

The black bear is one of the most familiar wild animals in North America and Canada today

Most visitors to Canada's provincial and national parks will see a bear if they know where to look.

Height 3- 3 ½ feet at shoulders                                                
Length 6-7 feet
Weight Adult males 200- 600 lbs; females 200 - 450 lbs

Top speed 35 mph

Lifespan 15 - 20 years

The general colour of the black bear is bluish black but occasionally they may be brownish or even cinnamon colored. The muzzle is brown and there may be a sometimes with whitish "V" on chest patch on the upper region of the chest. Albinos are rare.

The tail is short, the eyes small, and the ears are small and rounded.

An adult black bear has a moderate sized head with a rather straight face and a tapered nose.   They have a long manipulative tongue which greatly assist the bear when it feast on tiny blueberries or even tinier ants.  

Black bears walk flat-footed.  It walks like a human with the entire bottom portion of the foot touching the ground. Each foot has five long, powerful, non-retractable claws. These are very strong and are used for digging and tearing out roots, stumps, and old logs when searching for food. It can run at 35mph.


Black bears will eat almost anything available. Most of their food is vegetation, dandelions in the spring and young shrubs. In the late summer and autumn berries and nuts good foods.  Insects such as ants and grasshoppers are favourite,  Black bears will overturn logs, old tree stumps, and stones while foraging. The black bear often climbs up berry and apple trees over 30’ high.

Fish, small mammals, and occasionally birds are also on the black bear's menu. In the spring some bears may prey upon newborn moose calves, deer fawns, caribou calves, or elk calves.   Bears love a tree containing honey. Bears drink a lot and are usually found in the vicinity of water.

Black bears eat well in the summer and autumn months to accumulate a heavy layer of fat to support them through a winter-long hibernation period.


The black bear has several calls. These include a growl of anger, a whining call, and sniffs of many sorts. Bears make moaning and teeth chattering sounds to threaten other bears. A female with cubs may warn them of danger with a loud woof-woof and call them in with a whining or whimpering sound. The cry of a young cub in trouble is similar to the crying of a human baby. Females with cubs are often aggressive if the cubs are threatened.


Although found in a variety of habitats, the black bear prefers heavily wooded areas.

Bears start to be most active at dusk, and continue being active during the night in spring and summer. When autumn comes, they must spend more daylight hours hunting to build up a large fat reserve for the winter. Because they eat more plants than any other bear, most of their food disappears with the first snows.

Black bears  are good swimmers and frequently cross rivers and small lakes and can swim many miles if needed.

They climb with a series of quick bounds, grasping the tree with their forepaws and pushing with their hind legs. The can climb a large tree in seconds. You should not climb a tree to escape a bear. When descending they travel backwards, frequently dropping from the tree from heights up to 4.5 m.

One of the first lessons the mother bear teaches her young cub is to scramble up a tree for safety and to remain there until given permission by the mother to return to the ground. The eyesight of the black bear is relatively poor, but its senses of hearing and smell are well developed.  Frequently, a black bear will stand on its hind legs with its nose in the air and scent the wind for any smell

 Bear Signs

It is easy to find signs of black bears. Looking for food, they roll or turn over logs and stones, break up rotted stumps, tear up berry patches, and dig holes

They also have 'bear trees'. These are trees with teeth marks as high as a bear can reach with its mouth, and great claw scratches higher than that.  

Biologists think that trees repeatedly clawed and marked by bears serve as a form of communication. Adult males use these trees most frequently, presumably to advertise their presence to potential mates or potential rivals.

Black bears are extremely fond of human rubbish and frequently raid dumps and rubbish bins. The Canadians have made special bear proof bins to stop the bears form becoming humanized..   Signs that bear have been foraging at a rubbish dump is large amounts of scat left behind and bear tracks


Incidents of black bears attacking humans have been reported but are extremely rare. These attacks were usually made by bears that had been feeding on garbage or by animals in extremely poor physical condition due to old age, disease, or wounds, or frightener or trapped.

Most bears will walk or run the other way if people come into their area.

But there are a growing number of dangerous bears around rubbish dumps and campgrounds who have learned that people mean food. These bears would rather eat rubbish and camp foods than wild foods. They think of people as competitors for their food and have become very dangerous.


In the early days of European settlement, both the native Indians and the white settlers bear hunters made their living hunting and trapping bears for food, clothing.  Black bear populations began to decline as the human population grew.  

Today the black bear is still hunted in the USA but it is protected in Canada but not Ontario where they are still hunted..   

Many black bears are killed by poachers for a variety of parts including the teeth, claws, and especially the gall bladder which is sought after as an aphrodisiac. One gall bladder can be worth several thousand dollars on the black market. This illegal trade in black bear parts is one of the biggest threats to their existence today.


In wilderness areas they are usually most active from dawn until dark, whereas bears in areas with high human activity may be mainly nocturnal to avoid contact with people. Like most animals, they have customary routes of travel, which they regularly follow as they move from one area to another sometimes they travel over a hundred miles. Often bears can be found it the same area each year


Black bears are solitary animals.

Male bears take five or six years to mature  Female bears usually begin breeding at about 3 to 5 years of age and usually mate every other year producing 1- 3 cubs.  

The mating season is June and early July. Male bears leave the females after mating.   Females give birth to their cubs during the winter in late January or early February while the mother is still in her den.


Bears have few enemies which include older bears, wolves may attack young bears or a pack may attack females and occasionally lynx.  More bears die from starvation, accidents in particular on railway lines and disease.   

Some black bears harbour parasites such as tapeworms and roundworms, but these seem to have little effect on the bear's health. In general, wild black bears have remarkably few internal or external parasites.  All bear meat should be cooked carefully.


A black bear's paw print is about the size of a human print but is wider and always shows claw marks.


In the autumn when days become shorter and temperatures cooler, bears begin to search for a den site.

A suitable site may be under a tree stump or overturned log, or in a hole in a hillside. Most dens are only large enough to accommodate a bear when it is curled up. Generally, females line their dens with grass, ferns, or leaves, but males usually do not. Females usually den earlier, males frequently wait until the first snowfall before entering a den.

Most bears  will wake up and give chase if prodded during hibernation sufficiently. If the weather becomes exceptionally warm some bears may wake up and wander around for short periods during the winter months.

During the winter they may have lost up to 30 % of their weight. Most bears continue to lose weight during the early summer period.


Grizzly Bear          

Ursus arctos   

The grizzly bear is a large predator that is different from black bears due to a distinctive hump on its shoulders.

Grizzly bears have concave faces and long claws about the length of a human finger. Their coloration is usually darkish brown but can vary from very light cream to black. The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a "grizzled" appearance, hence the name "grizzly." The correct scientific name for the species is “brown bear”, but only coastal bears in Alaska and Canada are referred to as such,  

Go Wild!

Height 3- 3 ½ feet at shoulders
Length 6-7 feet
Weight Adult males 300 - 1000 lbs; females 200 - 850 lbs

Top speed 35 mph

Lifespan 20 - 25 years


Grizzly’s will eat both vegetation and animals. Grasses, sedges, roots, berries, insects, fish, rooks and small and large mammals.
In some areas they eat moose, caribou and elk, in others they eat salmon. Grizzly bear diet varies depending on what foods are available in that particular season. A Grizzly can eat 90 pounds of food a day.


Historically, there were around 50,000 grizzly bears in North America. Today, there are 1,000 - 1,200 grizzly bears remaining in Canada and Yellowstone USA.  In Alaska, there are thought to be over 30,000 grizzly bears.


Grizzly bears are found in a variety of habitats, from dense forests, to  meadows and arctic tundra. In North America, grizzly bears are found in western Canada, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

Historically, they could be found from Alaska to Mexico, The grizzly bear was once common on the Great Plains. However, humans have forced the remaining bear populations to move to rugged mountains and remote forests.


Bears live solitary lives except during breeding, cub rearing, and in areas with a super-abundant food supply such as salmon streams. Grizzly bears hibernate during the winter for 5-8 months, and usually dig their dens on north-facing slopes to ensure good snow cover.

Grizzly bears need to eat a lot in the summer and autumn in order to build up sufficient fat reserves for surviving the winter.  This is particularly true for pregnant females who give birth to one pound cubs and then nurse them to about 20 pounds before emerging from the den in April -May.

Mating Season Early May through mid-July
Gestation 63-70 days
Litter Size 1-3 cubs
The young are born in January or February while the mothers are hibernating in a den. Cubs will remain with their mothers for at least 3 - 4 years.

While hibernating the bears heart rate drops from 40 beat a minute to 8 beats a minute.


The biggest threat to grizzly bear survival is us the human . Bears come into conflict with humans when they are attracted by rubbish, pet foods and bird food. Bear will be killed if the injure or kill humans. In addition, some grizzly/brown bears are accidentally killed by hunters who mistake them for black bears, which are legal to hunt in USA.                                               Illegal killing (poaching) kills a large number of bears.

The other threats which primarily effect the cubs come from wolf packs, mountain lion, and even the male bear – sometime the father.  


In 1975 the grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in the USA and Canada. In Alaska, where there are estimated to be over 30,000 grizzly bears, they are classified as a game animal and can be shot.


©Robin Hooker 2008.' 07802 403289


©Robin Hooker 2008




                                 These are a few of some of my photos,  more are being added each day  © Robin Hooker