American Black Bear

American Black Bear

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a medium-sized bear native to North America (continent’s smallest and most widely distributed bear species).

Black bears are assured scavengers that can intimidate, using their large size and considerable strength, and if necessary dominate other predators in confrontations over carcasses. However, in occasions where they encounter the Kodiak or the grizzly bears, the larger two brown sub-species dominate them. Black bears tend to escape competition from brown bears by being more active in the daytime, and living in more densely forested areas.

Black bears do compete with cougars over carcasses. Like brown bears, they will sometimes steal kills from cougars. One study found that both bear species visited 24% of cougar kills in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, usurping 10% of carcasses. Fights between the two species are rare, though they can be violent. Cougars occasionally kill adult bears, a behavior reportedly witnessed in the 19th century. There are also 19th and early 20th century records of bears killing cougar, either in defense or in territorial disputes, and occasional fights, which ended in both combatants fatally wounded.

Although an adult bear is quite capable of killing a human, American black bears typically avoid confronting humans when possible and aggressive encounters with black bears rarely lead to serious injury. Unlike grizzly bears, which became a subject of fearsome legend among the European settlers of North America, black bears were rarely considered overly dangerous, even though they lived in areas where the pioneers had settled. Black bears rarely attack when confronted by humans, and usually limit themselves to making mock charges, emitting blowing noises and swatting the ground with their forepaws. The number of black bear attacks on humans is higher than those of the brown bear in North America, though this is largely because the black species considerably outnumbers the brown rather than greater aggressiveness. Photo: barfblog.com

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