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When you walk in Sequoia National Park you have to be careful because there are black bear around, just don't get close as I did to take these pictures.

The American Black Bear is the most common bear species native to North America. It lives throughout much of the continent, from northern Alaska south into Mexico and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This includes 41 of the 50 U.S. states, all Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island, and some of Mexico. Populations in the Southern United States remain in the protected mountains and woodlands of parks and preserves, though bears will occasionally wander outside the parks' boundaries and have set up new territories, in some cases on the margins of urban environments in recent years as their populations increase. Although there were probably once as many as two million Black Bears in North America long before European colonization, the population declined to a low of 200,000 as a result of habitat destruction and unrestricted hunting. By current estimates, more than 800,000 are living today on the continent. It is a close relative of the Asiatic Black Bear with which it is thought to share a European common ancestor.

Black bears are found in a wide variety of habitats across their range. They prefer forested and shrubby areas but they are also known to live on ridgetops, in tidelands, burned areas, riparian areas, agricultural fields, and, sometimes, avalanche chutes. Black bears can be found from hardwood and conifer swamps to the rather dry sage and pinyon-juniper habitats in the western states. Black bears typically "hibernate" during winter in hollowed-out dens in tree cavities, under logs or rocks, in banks, caves, or culverts, and in shallow depressions. Dens are normally not reused from one year to the next. While they do not eat, drink, defecate, or urinate during hibernation, it is not the true hibernation of smaller mammals since their body temperature does not drop significantly and they remain somewhat alert and active. Females give birth and nurse their young while hibernating.

After emerging from their winter dens in spring, they seek carrion from winter-killed animals and new shoots of many plant species, especially wetland plants. In mountainous areas, they seek southerly slopes at lower elevations for forage and move to northerly and easterly slopes at higher elevations as summer progresses. Black bears use dense cover for hiding and thermal protection, as well as for bedding. They climb trees to escape danger and use forested areas and rivers as travel corridors.

September 2008

Black Bear in Sequoia National Park

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