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Eastern Black Bear
Ursus americanus americanus

The first time I ever saw a black bear in the wild (well, it was crossing the road) was actually a shocking and majestic experience for me. I think it was a juvenile, and I was struck with how human-like it looked and moved. Black bears are crepuscular, which means they are more active at dusk and dawn, however they are out and about in the day, especially if they have some something good to eat. They can be out and about eating for 20 hours a day, especially as they are getting ready to den in the winter.

One of the questions me and my partner have always had is whether black bears actually hibernate completely in Virginia, since it really doesn’t get that cold here in the winters. What I found out was that black bears do den, at that point they don’t eat, drink, urinate or defecate. However “they are easily aroused and may be active during warm winter days. On occasion they may venture from their dens, walk about, and return to denning. They emerge from their dens from mid-March to early May,” From Virginia DWR

In general these bears are pretty shy, secretive, and mostly solitary. Unless of course, you get in between a momma and her cubs, which is one of the uncommon times that a black bear might attack a human.

Females have a range of around 1-50 square miles, and males 10-290 square miles. They move around more when food is scarce, or when it’s a poor masting season. A masting season is when all of the trees drop their acorns at the same time; acorns are one of the food staples for black bears.

Size: Really big 4-7' nose to tail, 2-3' high at the withers. 90-500lbs
Family: Ursidae (Bear Family)
Habitat: They can live in diverse habitats, like to be in the forests and places that provide cover, but will venture in more open areas, specifically for food. 
Identification: True black coat, brown muzzle, claws, long snout, rounded ears, short tail.
All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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