Camping Gear, Tents, Survival and Emergency Preparedness

The Black (mistakenly called a grizzly) and the Brown bear are the two main types of bears you black can encounter in the Continental United States. The black bear can look Black, blue-black, dark brown, brown, cinnamon and even white.

Be careful not to confuse the black bear with his cousin the grizzly bear. A grizzly bear’s colors can range from black to blond. Even size is not a good indicator to tell the difference between the bears.

you can identify a grizzly by its humped shoulders, white-tipped back hair and extra-long claws. Bears are normally shy of humans and generally will move away before we are even aware of their presence. Most bear encounters and attacks can be avoided, but there will be times when wind or other background noises may result in encounters between bears and people.

What to do if you encounter a Bear

  • Don’t Run
  • Slowly leave the area
  • Identify yourself if the bear spots you.
  • Stay calm.
  • Give the bear space.
  • Hike and travel in groups
  • Make yourselves look as large as possible.
  • Do NOT allow the bear access to your food.
  • Do NOT drop your pack or anything to distract the bear.
  • Watch for aggressive behaviors.
  • Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs.
  • Keep pets on leash.
  • If you have pepper spray, prepare to use it.
  • Report any sighting to a ranger.


Small but numerous
The black bear Ursus americanus is the smallest, yet most common, of the three bear species found in America (after the polar and grizzly). The current population estimate is 750,000 individuals.

Home on the range
Black bears are only found in North America. The species ranges from Canada in the north to Mexico in the south, and lives predominantly in forests, feeding on fruit, nuts, shoots and vegetation.

The high life
Black bears are excellent climbers and are often photographed scaling trees. Their claws give them great grip, and the branches offer youngsters safety from predators. Cubs can be very adventurous, climbing high into the treetops.

Water bears
Black bears are also good swimmers and will readily enter the water in search of fish. Black bear cubs take to the water easily and quickly, and one adult is believed to have swum nine miles along the Gulf of Mexico.

Speeding up
Black bears tend to shuffle along slowly when walking but are able to run at speeds of around 40-50kph. However, they cannot maintain this pace for long. Plump bears in heavy winter coats tire out particularly quickly.

Color changers
Despite their name, black bears are not always black – they can also be light brown, blond or even grey blue. A subspecies of black bear with white fur, known as the Kermode or spirit bear, lives in British Columbia.

Family matters
Female black bears can give birth to up to six cubs, and usually breed every other year. Cubs stay with their mother for about 18 months.

Mealtime mission
Black bears will leave the forest and travel many miles to seek food, entering back gardens and campsites. They have an exceptional sense of smell, leading them to seek out food items in rubbish bins and outdoor storage facilities. They are also perfectly capable of breaking into cars.

Hunting statistics
According to Born Free USA, black bears can be legally hunted in 27 states in America, and between 40,000 to 50,000 bears are legally hunted there each year. More are illegally poached.

Close encounters
If you come across a bear at close range, the usual advice is to retreat slowly, still facing the bear. Do not run. Bears are known to make mock-charges to within a few meters – if they do this, stand your ground and shout.

Black bears can be black, blue-black, dark brown, brown, cinnamon and even white. Grizzlies, likewise, may range in color, from black to blond. Although grizzly bears are, on average, significantly larger than black bears, size is not a good indicator of which species is which. Male black bears in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park, for instance, can weigh up to 800 pounds in the fall, and female grizzly bears on Alberta’s Eastern Slopes can weigh as little as 250 pounds in the spring.

Male black bears in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park, for instance, can weigh up to 800 pounds in the fall, and female grizzly bears on Alberta’s Eastern Slopes can weigh as little as 250 pounds in the spring.

The best indicators are the size of the shoulders, the profile of the face and the length of the claws. The grizzly bear has a pronounced shoulder hump, which the black bear lacks. It also has a concave or “dished” facial profile, smaller ears and much larger claws than the black bear. Black bears have a flatter, “Roman nose” profile, larger ears, no visible shoulder hump and smaller claws.

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