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Black bear picture and information (Ursus americanus)

Black bear picture and information (Ursus americanus)Numerous species of black bears varying in size occur in North and South America and in Asia. In North America a black bear, remarkably uniform in general appearance, but representing various geographic races and possibly species, is generally distributed throughout the forested areas from the borders of the Arctic barrens, at the northern limit of trees, south throughout the United States and down the wooded Sierra Madre to Jalisco, Mexico, and from Newfoundland on the east to Queen Charlotte Island on the west.

These bears are usually entirely black except for a brown patch covering the muzzle and an occasional white spot on the breast. Their weight is variable, the largest ones exceeding 500 pounds, but they average much less.

The cinnamon bear, so common in the West and Northwest, long supposed to be a distinct species, has proved to be merely a color phase of the black bear - cinnamon cubs being born in the same litters with black ones.

Since the days of primitive man and the great cave bear, the ways of bears have had a fearsome interest to mankind. Childhood revels in the delicious thrills of bear stories and dwells with wonder on the habit bears have of standing upright like droll caricatures of man, on the manlike tracks of their hind feet, and on their fondness for sweets and other palatable food.

From the landing of the first colonists on cur shores, hunters and settlers have encountered black bears so frequently that these are among the best-known large forest animals of the continent. During winter they hibernate for months, seeking a hollow tree, a low cave, the half shelter of fallen tree trunks and brush, or else digging a den for themselves. The female chooses a specially snug den, where in midwinter from one to four cubs are born. At birth the young, only 8 or 9 inches long, are practically naked and have their eyes closed. They are so undeveloped at this time that it is more than a month before their eyes open and more than two months before they can follow their mother.

Although powerful beasts, black bears are so shy and timid that to approach them requires the greatest skill on the part of a still hunter. They only attack people when wounded or so cornered that they must defend themselves or their young. To safeguard themselves from danger they rely mainly on a fine sense of hearing and an exquisite delicacy of smell. They have poor eyesight, and where a suspicious object is seen, but no sound or scent can be noted, they sometimes rise on their hind feet and look long and carefully before retreating.

To bears in the forest everything is game. They often spend the entire day turning over stones to lick up the ants and other insects sheltered there, and at night may visit settlers' cabins and carry off pigs. They raid the settlers' cornfields for green corn and are passionately fond of honey, robbing bee trees whenever possible. In season they delight in wild cherries, blueberries, and other fruits, as well as beechnuts, acorns, and pinyon nuts. They are mainly nocturnal, but in districts where not much disturbed wander widely by day.

The success of black bears in caring for themselves is well demonstrated by the numbers which still survive in the woods of Maine, New York, and other long-settled States. Their harmlessness and their exceeding interest to all render them worthy of careful protection. They should be classed as game and thoroughly protected as such except for certain open seasons. If this is done throughout the country, as is now the case in certain States, the survival of one of our most char­acteristic large wild animals will be assured.