Bears are a wonderous and beautiful animal – at a distance. Knowing your bears and how to act and react when you see signs of bears can be critical to staying safe on your adventures through nature. The most common species of bear in North America are are: the black bear (Ursus americanus) and the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) so we’ll mostly look at how to spot signs of bears and how to keep yourself safe.
Usual Physical Properties
The face and snout of the black bear usually form a straight line. The black bears usually have prominent ears.
Also, the black bear has no lump between the shoulders. The claws of the forelegs are both dark colored and short.
If the black bear’s tracks become clear, you can distinguish them from the grizzly bears’ track by observing the line by the curved front toes. The claws of the black bear leave little or no imprint of the forefingers.
In the tracks of the adult black bear, the print is from 10 to 13cm long while the print behind is between 15 to 23cm or 6 to 9 inches long.
When the tracks of grizzly and black bears of similar size are observed, they’d be similar, however, the black bears are generally smaller than grizzlies and the tracks are smaller.
When standing on an even ground, a black bear’s body is highest at the rump.
The Adults weigh from about 45 to around 200 kilograms (100 to 440 pounds).
The colors are different and it varies from blond to black
For grizzly bears, their face and snout are normally dish-shaped.
Grizzly bears have smaller round ears.
In grizzly bears, there is a hump in-between the shoulders, while the claws of the grizzly bears’ front feet are not only long but also light-colored.
When the tracks of the Grizzlies are clear, they can be distinguished from those of the black bears by the fairly straight line which is made by the toes of the Grizzlies. The claw imprints are fairly easier to observe and are usually around 2 to 3 inches in front of the toes.
In the Grizzly tracks, the print in front is around 13 to 18 centimeters which are 5 to 7 inches. And the print behind is around 25 to 30 centimeters which are also 10 to 12 inches.
The Grizzly is named after the “grizzled” or the silver-tipped fur. But then, not all the Grizzlies have a silver tipped-fur, and those which do have it do not have it all year long.
Standing on a flat surface, the grizzle’s body is higher than the shoulder hump.
Adults weigh between 200 to 880 pounds or 100 and 400 kilograms
The colors vary from blond to black.
Black bears are becoming more numerous than the grizzly bears and therefore, they can sustain a higher mortality rate.
The Female Black Bears
The female black bears often give birth to their first cub at 4 years old. They give birth to 2, 3 or even 4 at a time and they have cubs once in 2 years
The Grizzlies do not have many cubs, so there is a need for human-caused mortality to be checked. Such as poaching, collisions etc. this must be checked so that the population will be sustained and mortality reduced.
The Female Grizzly Bears
They may not birth cubs until they are late into 6 years old.
Usually, they have only 1 or 2 cubs per litter, and they occasionally get 3 cubs. They have their cubs once in 3 or 4 years.
The Black Bear
Black bears have favored forested habitats and they have developed curved claws which allows them to climb trees. This is helpful to escape danger.
Grizzly bears are opened to surviving open habitats. They have claws which have been adapted to dig and not to climb.
The grizzly bear prefers more open areas in the mountains, foothills, and parts of northern Alberta. Grizzlies rely on younger forests and areas near streams and rivers to find their preferred foods.
The Black Bear
The female black bears usually send their young up trees when any threat is sensed.
Since the black bears use trees to escape, they are less likely than the Grizzlies to aggressively defend their young, but if they feel like they are directly being threatened they may attack.
While the grizzly bears grow in low-treed areas, they have learned to defend their cubs by acting far more aggressively.
Grizzlies find confrontations risky, so they try to avoid them by attempting to scare the invaders or intruders away, they’ll do this by displaying superior strength. Grizzly bears are very possessive towards their prey and they defend them aggressively from perceived threats.
In either case you definitely want to be keeping your distance and you want to do what you can to make sure that the bear keeps its distance as well – for this reason we recommend using something like the Hyper Whistle.
A periodic blast on this will alert wildlife to your presence and help keep you safely away from bears.
Should you encounter a bear – Absolutely DO NOT run from it. Face the bear, make yourself look as big as possible and make lots of noise. If the chances of an encounter is high – you’ll want to have a holster at the ready with a can of bear spray. If you spray it directly in their face it will deter the bear from attacking you.