As the first bears emerge from hibernation
and start to roam, we thought
that it was a good time to have a refresher on our large friends.
So here are some facts and some safety tips to "bear" in mind.
Aww! So fluffy! How bad can they be? *BAD!*
First the *Grizzly Bear*
AKA: the brown bear, silvertip, ursus horribilis (Latin), Oso café or Oso
grande (Spanish), or in French: Ours brun.
*The Stats: *
Their typical life span is 20-30 years; although the oldest known in the
Yellowstone area lived to 31 years old. Their top running speed is an
amazing 35-40 mph with an average claw length of 1.8 inches. Talk about
The longest griz claw length recorded was an astonishing 5.9 inches. The
claw length and shape allows the grizzly to be an efficient digger of foods
from the ground, but they are less efficient for tree climbing than black
Speaking of tree climbing ability, cubs and younger, smaller bears are
proficient tree climbers; however, adult male and female grizzly bears are
also capable of climbing trees
*Hibernation vs Awakened:*
A typical grizzly's body temperature: 98-101°F during their active season.
During hibernation it drops to 94-95°F which would still be a cozy temp if
you ask us.
A brown bear's respiration and heart rate slow significantly during
hibernation from 6-10 breaths per minute to less than 1 per minute. Their
heart rate falls from 40-50 beats per minute to just 8-19 beats per minute
*Hunting and Killing stats: *
A grizzly's vision is possibly equal to human vision they exhibit color
vision and excellent night vision. They have 42 teeth and feed as
an omnivorous carnivore; opportunistic generalist. This basically means
everything but mostly meat. Easy meat. They require a normal caloric intake
of 5,000-8,000 calories per day while active and weigh an average of 413
pounds for males and 269 pounds for females.
At the moment it is estimated that there are 714 griz living in the
Yellowstone area with an estimated population of 50,000 in North America.
The thing about grizzly bears is that they are generally solitary except at
concentrated food sources such as carcasses, trout spawning streams, moth
aggregation sites, or during courtship, or when accompanied by young.
He's so cute and nice right? *WRONG! *He will eat your face, literally!
And now for *Black Bears:*
Black bears aka: Cinnamon bear, Ursus americanus (Latin), Oso negro
(Spanish). The American black bear is the smallest of the three bears
species found in North America, and are found only in North America.
American black bears average weights are males weighing in at 250 lbs. But
can range from as small as 125 lbs. to over 600 lbs. The females tend to be
smaller at 150 lbs, but can range from 90 lbs. to over 300 lbs.
In captivity, black bears have been known to live into their 30's. Because
adult black bears have no predators aside humans and other bears, they tend
to live longer than most other wild animals. With an average lifespan in
the wild being around 18 years.
Their claws are typically black or grayish brown. The claws are short and
rounded, being thick at the base and tapering to a point. Claws from both
hind and front legs are almost identical in length.
Black bears are omnivorous meaning they eat everything including: plants,
fruits, nuts, insects, honey, salmon, small mammals and carrion. In
northern regions, they have been known to eat spawning salmon and if they
can will also occasionally kill young deer or moose calves.
It is estimated that there are at least 600,000 black bears in North
America. In the United States, there are estimated to be over 300,000
individuals. In Wyoming, the state’s black bear population is an estimated
Black bears tend to be solitary animals, with the exception of mothers and
cubs. The bears usually forage alone, but will tolerate each other and
forage in groups if there is an abundance of food in one area.
Now that we know a little bit more about these animals here is how to
travel safely while in bear country (basically all of Wyoming). This advice
comes from the National Park Service.
*Be Alert *
See the bear before you surprise it. Watch for fresh tracks, scat, and
feeding sites (diggings, rolled rocks, torn up logs, ripped open ant hills).
*Avoid Hiking Alone *
Whenever possible hike in groups of three or more people—91% of the people
injured by bears in Yellowstone since 1970 were hiking alone or with only
one hiking partner; only 9% of the people injured by bears were in groups
of three or more people.
Avoid Hiking at Dawn, Dusk, or at Night
Whenever possible avoid hiking at dawn, dusk, or at night. During the hot
summer season these are the periods when grizzly bears are most active.
*Make Noise, Alert Bears to Your Presence *
When hiking, periodically yell "Hey Bear" especially when walking through
dense vegetation or blind spots, or when traveling upwind, near loud
streams, or on windy days. Avoid thick brush whenever possible.
*Avoid Carcasses *
Bears will guard and defend carcasses against other scavengers or humans.
Dead ungulates will attract and hold many bears near the carcass site. It
is risky to approach a carcass; many bears may be bedded nearby just out of
sight. If you find a fresh dead ungulate carcass that still has a lot of
meat remaining, leave the immediate area by the same route you approached
the carcass from. Report all carcasses to the nearest ranger station or
*Stay With Your Gear *
Don't leave your packs, lunches, food, or beverages unattended as they may
attract and hold bears at the site. If you surprise a bear that's eating
your stashed food you may lose more than your lunch.
*DO NOT RUN *
Trust us you can't outrun a bear. Usain Bolt (the very definition of fast)
can't outrun a bear. Running also triggers a predatory response in bears
making them really, really want to catch you.
If you do run remember you don't have to outrun the bear. Just your hiking
*Reacting to a Surprise Encounter With a Bear*
Okay you disregarded all of the previous advice and have run into a bear.
Here is what the experts recommend.
If the bear clacks its teeth, sticks out its lips, huffs, woofs, or slaps
the ground with its paws, it is warning you that you are too close and are
making it nervous.
Heed this warning and slowly back away. Do not run, shout, or make sudden
movements: you don't want to startle the bear. Running may trigger a chase
response in the bear and you can't outrun a bear. Bears in Yellowstone
chase down elk calves all the time. You do not want to look like a slow elk
Often times, slowly putting distance between yourself and the bear will
defuse the situation. Draw your bear spray or gun from the holster, remove
the safety tab, or safety and prepare to use it if the bear charges.
*Should you climb a tree? *
Climbing a tree to avoid an attack might be an option but is often
impractical. Remember all black bears and most grizzly bears can climb
trees (especially if there is something up the tree that the bear really
wants). Running to a tree or frantically climbing a tree may provoke a
non-aggressive bear to chase you.
People have been pulled from trees before they can get high enough to get
away. Also, you have probably not climbed a tree since you were ten years
old and it is harder than you remember. In most cases climbing a tree is a
We hope that this keeps you safe this year. Good luck out there and
remember to stay bear aware!
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