Black bears are common throughout B.C. which has one of the largest black bear populations in the world. Each Spring and Fall the common North American black bear, Ursus Americanus, makes the news headlines usually in interactions with humans and their garbage. The second bear species many of us are familiar with is the North American brown, or grizzly bear, (Ursus Arctos or Horribilis). Northern and Coastal B.C. – an area often inaccessible except by boat, float plane or helicopter is an excellent area to view bears in their natural habitat. Here are a few photos from the spectacular wilderness in the north coast region of the province of British Columbia.
Statistics on Black Bears in B.C.
- There are 120,000 to 160,000 black bears in B.C. (2012) according to the B.C. government
- In 2012, there were an estimated 15,000 grizzly (brown) bears in B.C.
- Human fatalities caused by black bear are rare, especially when considering the large number of bears in the province.
- Many bears and other animals are killed each year on our roads and railways.
- When a bear becomes dependent on garbage or breaks into homes for food, there is often no other alternative but for Conservation Officers to euthanize the bears.
- The major human / bear problem areas seem to be where residential areas have been recently developed and there has been a loss of habitat for wild animals.
Bears and Diet
Bears are classified in the Order Carnivora but are omnivores that eat a mostly vegetation diet as well as insects and fish. They can become a problem in built-up areas with domestic food sources such as chickens, calves, compost, and garbage; especially when it easily accessible or if their natural food source is not available. This was an ongoing concern when we had lived on acreage in northern B.C., with bears being attracted to chickens and rabbits in the rabbitry.
Habitat of Bears
Bears are found throughout the province in differing kinds of habitats. Once they become accustomed to human garbage in residential areas it usually does not have a good outcome for the bear and most do not survive tranquilizing and relocating to another area.
What are Major Predators
Adult bears, especially grizzlies, don’t have any natural predators. Although new-born cubs and sows can be in threatened by other adult bears or predators, such as wolves or cougar. Black bears stay away from the grizzly bear who is usually the aggressor. Humans are now bears’ main predator.
What are Major Threats
Environmental concerns are the same for bears as for many other species; these include loss of habitat, and changes to food or habitat due to climate change. This was particularly noticeable in the summer of 2015 due to the high number and size of wild forest fires, accompanied by drought in many areas. The wild berry crop, a main food source for bears, was a failure due to lack of rain. Many species, including bears, depend on the wild salmon runs each fall before they hibernate.
Bear and Human Interactions
The most dangerous bears to meet are a sow with her cubs in the Springtime and a hungry bear in the Fall before hibernation. Two dangerous bear encounters to avoid include meeting a wounded animal or a chance meeting with a grizzly bear during hunting season.
Black Bear & Grizzly Hunting
There is much ongoing controversy at present with regard to the trophy hunting of the grizzly. Both recreational and trophy hunting is big business and provides millions of dollars of revenue for the province, guides, outfitter and the general economy.
If you live in Canada and travel into the forests at any time of year, it is wise to be bear aware even though bears and other wild animals usually prefer to stay away from humans. Avoid bears when possible. Bears can grow very large and may look cumbersome and slow, but they are very fast – can outrun humans – and are extremely strong.
Photos used with permission (Limited copyright)
Links & References:
- Information on Black Bear
- Information on Grizzly Bear
- Great Bear Rainforest home of the white Kermode Spirit Bear
- BC Spirit Bear – videos
- Several species of Grizzly bear are threatened in BC
- Grizzly bears are a key indicator of BC’s ecological health
- Environmental Reporting BC
- Bear Smart Program
- B.C Ministry of Environment Get Bear Aware
- Wildlife Reporting program in BC
- Wildlife Roadkill Identification Program
- High number of animal fatalities each year due to road kill
- Wildlife statistics from Northern B.C.
- BC Resident Hunting information
- Bears in Parks
- The Alberta Grizzly
- Bears and threatened extinction – IUCN
- The story of bears, salmon and trees from David Suzuki Foundation
- The Challenge of Bears