CARNIVORES: Black Bears
Figure 1. Black bear (Ursus
The black bear (Ursus
americanus, Fig. 1) is the smallest and most widely
distributed of the North Americanbears.
Adults typically weigh 100 to 400 pounds (45 to 182 kg)
and measure from 4 to 6 feet (120 to 180 cm) long. Some
adult males attain weights of over 600 pounds (270 kg).
They are massive and strongly built animals. Black bears
east of the Mississippi are predominantly black, but in
the Rocky Mountains and westward various shades of
brown, cinnamon, and even blond are common. The head is
moderately sized with a straight profile and tapering
nose. The ears are relatively small, rounded, and erect.
The tail is short (3 to 6 inches [8 to 15 cm]) and
inconspicuous. Each foot has five curved claws about 1
inch (2.5 cm) long that are non-retractable. Bears walk
with a shuffling gait, but can be quite agile and quick
when necessary. For short distances, they can run up to
35 miles per hour (56 km/hr). They are quite adept at
climbing trees and are good swimmers. It is important to
be able to distinguish between black bears and grizzly/
brown bears (Ursus arctos). The grizzly/brown bear is
typically much larger than the black bear, ranging from
400 to 1,300 pounds (180 to 585 kg). Its guard hairs
have whitish or silvery tips, giving it a frosted or
“grizzly” appearance. Grizzly/brown bears have a
pronounced hump over the shoulder; a shortened, often
dished face; relatively small ears; and long claws (Fig.
Black bears historically
ranged throughout most of North America except for the
desert southwest and the treeless barrens of northern
Canada. They still occupy much of their original range
with the exception of the Great Plains, the midwestern
states, and parts of the eastern and southern coastal
states (Fig. 3). Black bear and grizzly/brown bear
distributions overlap in the Rocky Mountains, Western
Canada, and Alaska.
Black bears frequent
heavily forested areas, including large swamps and
mountainous regions. Mixed hardwood forests interspersed
with streams and swamps are typical habitats. Highest
growth rates are achieved in eastern deciduous forests
where there is an abundance and variety of foods. Black
bears depend on forests for their seasonal and yearly
requirements of food, water, cover, and space.
Black bears are
omnivorous, foraging on a wide variety of plants and
animals. Their diet is typically determined by the
seasonal availability of food. Typical foods include
grasses, berries, nuts, tubers, wood fiber, insects,
small mammals, eggs, carrion, and garbage. Food
shortages occur occasionally in northern bear ranges
when summer and fall mast crops (berries and nuts) fail.
During such years, bears become bolder and travel more
widely in their search for food. Human encounters with
bears are more frequent during such years, as are
complaints of crop damage and livestock losses. Fig. 3.
Range of the black bear in North America.
General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior
Black bears typically are
nocturnal, although occasionally they are active during
the day. In the South, black bears tend to be active
year-round; but in northern areas, black bears undergo a
period of semihibernation during winter. Bears spend
this period of dormancy in dens, such as hollow logs,
windfalls, brush piles, caves, and holes dug into the
ground. Bears in northern areas may remain in their dens
for 5 to 7 months, foregoing food, water, and
elimination. Most cubs are born between late December
and early February, while the female is still denning.
Black bears breed during the summer months, usually in
late June or early July. Males travel extensively in
search of receptive females. Both sexes are promiscuous.
Fighting occurs between rival males as well as between
males and unreceptive females. Dominant females may
suppress the breeding activities of subordinate females.
After mating, the fertilized egg does not implant
immediately, but remains unattached in the uterus until
fall. Females in good condition will usually produce 2
or 3 cubs that weigh 7 to 12 ounces (198 to 340 g) at
After giving birth, the
sow may continue her winter sleep while the cubs are
awake and nursing. Lactating females do not come into
estrus, so females generally breed only every other
year. Parental care is solely the female’s
responsibility. Males will kill and eat cubs if they
have the opportunity. Cubs are weaned in late summer but
usually remain close to the female throughout their
first year. This social unit breaks up when the female
comes into her next estrus. After the breeding season,
the female and her yearlings may travel together for a
few weeks. Black bears become sexually mature at
approximately 3 1/2 years of age, but some females may
not breed until their fourth year or later.
In North America, black
bear densities range from 0.3 to 3.4 bears per square
mile (0.1 to 1.3 bears/km2). Densities are highest in
the Pacific Northwest because of the high diversity of
habitats and long foraging season. The home range of
black bears is dependent on the type and quality of the
habitat and the sex and age of the bear. In mountainous
regions, bears encounter a variety of habitats by moving
up or down in elevation. Where the terrain is flatter,
bears typically range more widely in search of food,
water, cover, and space. Most adult females have
well-defined home ranges that vary from 6 to 19 square
miles (15 to 50 km2).Ranges of adult males are usually
several times larger.
Black bears are powerful
animals that have few natural enemies. Despite their
strength and dominant position, they are remarkably
tolerant of humans. Interactions between people and
black bears are usually benign. When surprised or
protecting cubs, a black bear will threaten the intruder
by laying back its ears, uttering a series of huffs,
chopping its jaws, and stamping its feet. This may be
followed by a charge, but in most instances it is only a
bluff, as the bear will advance only a few yards (m)
before stopping. There are very few cases where a black
bear has charged and attacked a human. Usually people
are unaware that bears are even in the vicinity. Most
bears will avoid people, except bears that have learned
to associate food with people. Food conditioning occurs
most often at garbage dumps, campgrounds, and sites
where people regularly feed bears. Habituated,
food-conditioned bears pose the greatest threat to
humans (Herrero 1985, Kolenosky and Strathearn 1987).
Damage and Damage Identification
Damage caused by black
bears is quite diverse, ranging from trampling sweet
corn fields and tearing up turf to destroying beehives
and even (rarely) killing humans. Black bears are noted
for nuisance problems such as scavenging in garbage
cans, breaking in and demolishing the interiors of
cabins, and raiding camper’s campsites and food caches.
Bears also become a nuisance when they forage in garbage
dumps and landfills. Black bears are about the only
animals, besides skunks, that molest beehives. Evidence
of bear damage includes broken and scattered combs and
hives showing claw and tooth marks. Hair, tracks, scats,
and other sign may be found in the immediate area. A
bear will usually use the same path to return every
night until all of the brood, comb, and honey are eaten.
Field crops such as corn
and oats are also damaged occasionally by hungry black
bears. Large, localized areas of broken, smashed stalks
show where bears have fed in cornfields. Bears eat the
entire cob, whereas raccoons strip the ears from the
stalks and chew the kernels from the ears. Black bears
prefer corn in the milk stage.
Bears can cause extensive
damage to trees, especially in second-growth forests, by
feeding on the inner bark or by clawing off the bark to
leave territorial markings. Black bears damage orchards
by breaking down trees and branches in their attempts to
reach fruit. They will often return to an orchard
nightly once feeding starts. Due to the perennial nature
of orchard damage, losses can be economically
Few black bears learn to
kill livestock, but the behavior, once developed,
usually persists. The severity of black bear predation
makes solving the problem very important to the
individuals who suffer the losses. If bears are suspect,
look for deep tooth marks (about 1/2 inch [1.3 cm] in
diameter) on the neck directly behind the ears. On large
animals, look for large claw marks (1/2 inch [1.3 cm]
between individual marks) on the shoulders and sides.
Bear predation must be
distinguished from coyote or dog attacks. Coyotes
typically attack the throat region. Dogs chase their
prey, often slashing the hind legs and mutilating the
animal. Tooth marks on the back of the neck are not
usually found on coyote and dog kills. Claw marks are
less prominent on coyote or dog kills, if present at
Different types of
livestock behave differently when attacked by bears.
Sheep tend to bunch up when approached. Often three or
more will be killed in a small area. Cattle have a
tendency to scatter when a bear approaches. Kills
usually consist of single animals. Hogs can evade bears
in the open and are more often killed when confined.
Horses are rarely killed by bears, but they do get
clawed on the sides.
After an animal is killed,
black bears will typically open the body cavity and
remove the internal organs. The liver and other vital
organs are eaten first, followed by the hindquarters.
Udders of lactating females are also preferred. When a
bear makes a kill, it usually returns to the site at
dusk. Bears prefer to feed alone. If an animal is killed
in the open, the bear may drag it into the woods or
brush and cover the remains with leaves, grass, soil,
and forest debris. The bear will periodically return to
this cache site to feed on the decomposing carcass.
Black bears occasionally
threaten human health and safety. Dr. Stephen Herrero
documented 500 injuries to humans resulting from
encounters with black bears from 1960 to 1980 (Herrero
1985). Of these, 90% were minor injuries (minor bites,
scratches, and bruises). Only 23 fatalities due to black
bear attacks were recorded from 1900 to 1980. These are
remarkably low numbers, considering the geographic
overlap of human and black bear populations. Ninety
percent of all incidents were likely associated with
habituated, food-conditioned bears.
In the early 1900s, black
bears were classified as nuisance or pest species
because of agricultural depredations. Times have changed
and bear distributions and populations have diminished
because of human activity. Many states, such as
Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon,
Utah, and Wisconsin, manage the black bear as a big game
animal. Most other states either consider black bears as
not present or completely protect the species. In most
western states, livestock owners and property owners may
legally kill bears that are killing livestock, damaging
property, or threatening human safety. Several states
require a permit before removing a bear when the damage
situation is not acute. In states where complete
protection is required, the state wildlife agency or
USDA-APHIS-ADC will usually offer prompt service when a
problem occurs. The problem bear will be livetrapped and
moved, killed, and/or compensation for damage offered.
In a life-threatening situation, the bear can be shot,
but proof of jeopardy may be required to avoid a
citation for illegal killing.
Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Fencing has proven effective in deterring bears from
landfills, apiaries, cabins, and other high-value
properties. Fencing, however, is a relatively expensive
abatement measure. Consider the extent, duration, and
expense of damage when developing a prevention program.
Numerous fence designs
have been used with varying degrees of success. Electric
fence chargers increase effectiveness. Depending on the
amount of bear pressure, use an electric polytape
portable fence (Fig. 4), or a welded-wire permanent
fence (Fig. 5).
Fence Energizing System
and Maintenance. To energize the fences, use a
110-volt outlet or 12-volt deep cell (marine) battery
connected to a high-output fence charger. Place the
fence charger and battery in a case or empty beehive to
protect them against weather and theft. Drive a ground
rod 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 m) into the ground,
preferably into moist soil. Connect the ground terminal
of the charger to the ground rod with a wire and ground
clamp. Connect the positive fence terminal to the fence
with a short piece of fence wire. Use connectors to
ensure good contact. Electric fences must deliver an
effective shock to repel bears. Bears can be lured into
licking or sniffing the wire by attaching attractants
(salmon or tuna tins and bacon rinds) to the fence.
Grounding may be increased, especially in dry, sandy
soil, by laying grounded chicken wire around the outside
perimeter of the electric fence.
Check the fence voltage
each week at a distance from the fence charger; it
should yield at least 3,000 volts. To protect against
voltage loss, keep the battery and fence charger dry and
their connections free of corrosion. Make certain all
connections are secure and check for faulty insulators
(arcing between wire and post). Also clip vegetation
beneath the fence. Each month, check the fence tension
and replace baits with new salmon tins and bacon rinds.
Always recharge the batteries during the day so that the
fence is energized at night.
Black bears are strong
enough to tear open doors, rip holes in siding, and
break glass windows to gain access to food stored inside
cabins, tents, and other structures. Use solid frame
construction, 3/4-inch (2-cm) plywood sheeting, and
strong, tight-fitting shutters and doors. Steel plating
is more impervious than wood.
Bear-proof containers are
available for campers in a variety of sizes. They can be
used to safely store food and other bear attractants
during backpacking trips or other outdoor excursions. In
the absence of bear-proof containers, store food in
airtight containers and suspend them by rope between two
tall trees that are at least 100 yards (100 m) downwind
of your campsite.
Food, supplies, and
beehives can be stored 15 to 20 feet (4 to 6 m) above
ground on elevated platforms or bear poles. Support
poles should be at least 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter
and wrapped with a 4-foot-wide (1.4-m) piece of
galvanized sheet metal, 6 to 7 feet (2 m) above ground.
You can also place one or two hives on a flat or
low-sloping garage roof. Be sure to add extra roof
braces because two hives full of honey can weigh 800
pounds (360 kg) or more. An innovative technique for
beekeepers is to place hives on a fenced (three-strand
electric) flatbed trailer (8 feet x 40 feet [2.4 m x
12.2 m]). Though expensive, this method makes hives less
vulnerable to bear damage and makes moving them very
Prevention is the best method of controlling black
bear damage. Sanitation and proper solid waste
management are key considerations. Store food, organic
wastes, and other bear attractants in bear-proof
containers. Use garbage cans for nonfood items only.
Implement regular garbage pickup and practice
incineration. Reduce access to landfills through
fencing, and bury refuse daily. Eliminate garbage dumps.
Place livestock pens and
beehives at least 50 yards (50 m) away from wooded areas
and protective cover. Confine livestock in buildings and
pens, especially during lambing or calving seasons.
Remove carcasses from the site and dispose of them by
rendering or deep burial.
Plant susceptible crops
(corn, oats, fruit) away from areas of protective cover.
Pick and remove all fruit from orchard trees. Remove
protective cover from a radius of 50 yards (50 m) around
occupied buildings and residences. Locate campgrounds,
campsites, and hiking trails in areas that are not
frequented by bears to minimize people/bear encounters.
Avoid seasonal feeding and denning areas and frequently
used game trails. Where possible, clear hiking trails to
provide a minimum viewing distance of 50 yards (50 m)
down the trail.
Frightening Devices and
Black bears can be frightened from an area (such as
buildings, livestock corrals, orchards) by the extended
use of night lights, strobe lights, loud music,
pyrotechnics, exploder canons, scarecrows, and trained
guard dogs. The position of such frightening devices
should be changed frequently. Over a period of time,
animals usually become used to scare devices. Bears
often become tolerant of human activity, too. At this
point, scare devices are ineffective and human safety
becomes a concern.
Black bears are
occasionally encountered in the backcountry on trails or
at campsites. They can usually be frightened away by
shouting, clapping hands, throwing objects, and by
chasing. Such actions can be augmented by the noise of
pots banging, gunfire, cracker shells, gas-propelled
boat horns, and engines revving. It is important to
attempt to determine the motivation of the offending
bears. Habituated, food-conditioned bears can be very
dangerous. Aggressive behavior toward a black bear
should not be carried so far as to threaten the bear and
elicit an attack.
Black bears can be
deterred from landfills, occupied buildings, and other
sites by the use of 12-gauge plastic slugs or 38-mm
rubber bullets. Aim for the large muscle mass in the
hind quarters. Avoid the neck and front shoulders to
minimize the risk of hitting and damaging an eye.
Firearm safety training is recommended.
Capsaicin or concentrated red pepper spray has been
tested and used effectively on black bears. The spray
range on most products is less than 30 feet (10 m), so
capsaicin is only effective in close encounters.
Capsaicin spray may become more popular where use of
firearms is limited.
Toxicants None are
Fumigants None are
Culvert and Barrel Traps. Live trapping black
bears in culvert or barrel traps is highly effective and
convenient (Fig. 6). Set one or two culvert traps in the
area where the bear is causing a problem. Post warning
signs on and in the vicinity of the trap. Use baits to
lure the bear into the trap. Successful baits include
decaying fish, beaver carcasses, livestock offal, fruit,
candy, molasses, and honey. When the trap door falls,
the bear is safely held without a need for dangerous
handling or transfer. Bears can be immobilized, released
at another site, or destroyed if necessary. Trapped
bears that are released should first be transported at
least 50 miles (80 km), preferably across a substantial
geographic barrier such as a large river, swamp, or
mountain range, and released in a remote area. Remote
release mechanisms are highly recommended. Occasionally,
food-conditioned bears will repeat their offenses. A
problem bear should be released only once. If it causes
subsequent problems it should be destroyed.
The Aldrich-type foot snare (Fig. 7) is used extensively
by USDA-APHIS-ADC and state wildlife agency personnel to
catch problem bears. This method is safe, when correctly
used, and allows for the release of nontarget animals.
Bears captured in this manner can be tranquilized,
released, translocated, or destroyed. Use baits as
described previously to attract bears to foot snare
The tools required for the
pipe set are an Aldrich foot snare complete with the
spring throw arm, a 9-inch (23-cm) long, 5-inch (13-cm)
diameter piece of stove pipe, iron pin, hammer, and
shovel. Cut a 1-inch (2.5-cm) slot, 6 1/2 inches (16.5
cm) long, down one side of the pipe. Place the pipe in a
hole dug 9 inches (23 cm) deep into the ground. Cut a
groove in the ground to accommodate the spring throw arm
so that the pan will extend through the slot into the
center of the pipe. The top of the pipe should be level
with the ground surface. Anchor the pipe securely to the
ground, where possible, by attaching it to spikes or a
stake driven into the ground inside the can. Bears will
try to pull the pipe out of the ground if it “gives.”
The spring throw arm should be placed with the pan
extending into the pipe slot 6 inches (15 cm) down from
the top of the pipe. Pack soil around the pipe 1 inch
(2.5 cm) from the top. Leave the pipe slot open and the
spring uncovered. Loop the cable around the pipe,
leaving 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) of slack. Place the cable over
the hood on the spring throw arm, then spike the cable
to the ground in back of the throw arm. The cable is
spiked to keep it flush to the ground so that it will
not unkink or spring up prematurely. Cover the cable
loop with soil to the top of the pipe. Anchor the cable
securely to a tree at least 8 inches (20 cm) in
diameter. Cover the spring throw arm and pipe slot with
grass and leaves. Place a few boughs and some brush
around the set to direct the bear into the pipe. The
slot in the pipe and the spring throw arm should be at
the back of the set. The bear can approach the set from
either side or the front. Melt bacon into the bottom of
the pipe and drop a small piece in. The bacon should not
lie on the pan. Other bait or scent, such as a
fish-scented rag, may be used. Place a 15 to 20-pound
(6.8- to 9-kg) rock over the top of the pipe. Melt bacon
grease on the top of it or rub it on. The rock will
serve to prevent humans, birds, nontarget wild animals,
and livestock from being caught in the snare.
The bear will approach the
set and proceed to lick the grease off the rock. It will
then roll the rock from the top of the pipe and try to
reach the bait with its mouth. When this fails, it will
use a front foot, which will then be caught in the
snare. The bear will try to reach the bait first with
its mouth and may spring the set if the pan is not
placed the required 6 inches (15 cm) below the top of
the pipe. Pipe sets are more efficient, more economical,
and safer than leghold traps.
Shooting is effective, but often a last resort, in
dealing with a problem black bear. Permits are required
in most states and provinces to shoot a bear out of
season. To increase the probability of removing the
problem bear, shooting should be done at the site where
damage has occurred. Bears are most easily attracted to
baits from dusk to dark. Place baits in the damaged area
where there are safe shooting conditions and clear
visibility. Use large, well-anchored carcass baits or
heavy containers filled with rancid meat scraps, fat
drippings, and rotten fruit or vegetables. Establish a
stand roughly 100 yards (100 m) downwind from the bait
and wait for the bear to appear. Strive for a quick
kill, using a rifle of .30 caliber or larger. The animal
must be turned over to wildlife authorities in most
states and provinces.
Calling bears with a
predator call has been reported to offer limited
success. If nothing else works, it can be tried. It is
best to use two people when calling since the bear may
come up in an ugly mood, out of sight of the caller. As
with any method of bear control, be cautious and use an
adequate-caliber rifle to kill the bear. Call in the
vicinity of the damage, taking proper precautions by
wearing camouflage clothing, orienting the wind to blow
the human scent away from the direction of the bear’s
approach, and selecting an area that provides clear
visibility for shooting. See Blair (1981) for
bear-calling methods. Some states allow the use of dogs
to hunt bears. Guides and professional hunters with bear
dogs can be called for help. Place the dogs on the track
of the problem bear. Often the dogs will be able to
track and tree the bear, allowing it to be killed, and
thus solving the bear problem quickly.
Avoiding Human-Bear Conflicts
Preventing Bear Attacks.
Black and grizzly bears must be respected. They have
great strength and agility, and will defend themselves,
their young, and their territories if they feel
threatened. Learn to recognize the differences between
black and brown bears. Knowledge and alertness can help
avoid encounters with bears that could be hazardous.
They are unpredictable and can inflict serious injury.
NEVER feed or approach a bear.
To avoid a bear encounter,
stay alert and think ahead. Always hike in a group.
Carry noisemakers, such as bells or cans containing
stones. Most bears will leave a vicinity if they are
aware of human presence. Remember that noisemakers may
not be effective in dense brush or near rushing water.
Be especially alert when traveling into the wind since
bears may not pick up your scent and may be unaware of
your approach. Stay in the open and avoid food sources
such as berry patches and carcass remains. Bears may
feel threatened if surprised. Watch for bear sign—fresh
tracks, digging, and scats (droppings). Detour around
the area if bears or their fresh sign are observed.
NEVER approach a bear cub.
Adult female black bears are very defensive and may be
aggressive, making threatening gestures (laying ears
back, huffing, chopping jaws, stomping feet) and
possibly making bluff charges. Black bears rarely attack
humans, but they have a tolerance range which, when
encroached upon, may trigger an attack. Keep a distance
of at least 100 yards (100 m) between you and bears.
Bears are omnivores,
eating both vegetable and animal matter, so don’t
encourage them by leaving food or garbage around camp.
When bears associate food with humans, they often lose
their fear of humans and are attracted to campsites.
Food-conditioned bears are very dangerous.
campgrounds, keep your campsite clean, and lock food in
the trunk of your vehicle. Don’t leave dirty utensils
around the campsite, and don’t cook or eat in tents.
After eating, place garbage in containers provided by
In the backcountry,
establish camp away from animal or walking trails and
near large, sparsely branched trees that can be climbed
should it become necessary. Choose another area if fresh
bear sign is present. Cache food away from your tent,
preferably suspended from a tree that is 100 yards (100
m) downwind of camp. Hang food from a strong branch at
least 15 feet (4.5 m) high and 8 feet (2.4 m) from the
trunk of the tree. Use bear-proof or airtight containers
for storing food and other attractants. Freeze-dried
foods are light-weight and relatively odor-free. Pack
out all noncombustible garbage. Burying it is useless
and dangerous. Bears can easily smell it and dig it up.
The attracted bear may then become a threat to the next
group of hikers. Always have radio communication and
emergency transportation available for remote base or
work camps, in case of accidents or medical emergencies.
Don’t take dogs into the
backcountry. The sight or smell of a dog may attract a
bear and provoke an attack. Most dogs are no match for a
bear. When in trouble, the dog may come running back to
the owner with the bear in pursuit. Trained guard dogs
are an exception and may be useful in detecting and
chasing away bears in the immediate area.
If a bear is seen at a distance, make a wide detour.
Keep upwind if possible so the bear can pick up human
scent and recognize human presence. If a detour or
retreat is not possible, wait until the bear moves away
from the path. Always leave an escape route and never
harass a bear.
If a bear is encountered
at close range, keep calm and assess the situation. A
bear rearing on its hind legs is not always aggressive.
If it moves its head from side to side it may only be
trying to pick up scent and focus its weak eyes. Remain
still and speak in low tones. This may indicate to the
animal that there is no threat. Assess the surroundings
before taking action. There is no guaranteed life-saving
method of handling an aggressive bear, but some behavior
patterns have proven more successful than others.
Do not run. Most bears can
run as fast as a racehorse, covering 30 to 40 feet (9 to
12 m) per second. Quick, jerky movements can trigger an
attack. If an aggressive bear is met in a wooded area,
speak softly and back slowly toward a tree. Climb a good
distance up the tree. Most black bears are agile
climbers, so a tree offers limited safety, but you can
defend yourself in a tree with branches or a boot heel.
Adult grizzlies don’t climb as a rule, but large ones
can reach up to 10 feet (3 m).
Occasionally, bears will
bluff by charging within a few yards (m) of an
unfortunate hiker. Sometimes they charge and veer away
at the last second. If you are charged, attempt to stand
your ground. The bear may perceive you as a greater
threat than it is willing to tackle and may leave the
Black bears are less
formidable than grizzly bears, and may be frightened off
by acting aggressively toward the animal. Do not play
dead if a black bear is stalking you or appears to
consider you as prey. Use sticks, rocks, frying pans, or
whatever is available to frighten the animal away. As a
last resort, when attacked by a grizzly/brown bear,
passively resist by playing dead. Drop to the ground
face down, lift your legs up to your chest, and clasp
both hands over the back of your neck. Wearing a pack
will shield your body. Brown bears have been known to
inflict only minor injuries under these circumstances.
It takes courage to lie still and quiet, but resistance
is usually useless.
Many people who work in or
frequent bear habitat carry firearms for personal
protection. High-powered rifles (such as a .458 magnum
with a 510-grain soft-point bullet or a .375 magnum with
a 300-grain soft-point bullet) or shotguns (12-gauge
with rifled slugs) are the best choices, followed by
large handguns (.44 magnum or 10 mm). Although not a
popular solution, killing a bear that is attacking a
human is justifiable.
Economics of Damage and Control
Black bear damage to the
honey industry is a significant concern. Damage to
apiaries in the Peace River area of Alberta was
estimated at $200,000 in 1976. Damage incidents in
Yosemite National Park were estimated to be as high as
$113,197 in 1975, with $96,594 resulting from damage to
vehicles in which food was stored. Thirty percent of all
trees over 6 inches (15 cm) tall were reported to be
damaged by black bears on a 3,360 acre (1,630 ha) parcel
in Washington State. In Wisconsin, one female black bear
and her cubs caused an estimated $35,000 of damage to
apple trees during a two-day period in 1987. In general,
black bears can inflict significant economic damage in
localized areas. Some states pay for damage caused by
black bears. In western states, losses caused by black
bears are usually less than 10% of total predation
losses, although records are not complete. The extent of
claims paid are not high but usually are greater than
the license income that state wildlife agencies receive
from black bear hunters. Deems and Pursley (1983) listed
the states and provinces that pay for black bear
Much of the text was
adapted from the chapter “Black Bears” by M. Boddicker
from the 1986 revision of Prevention and Control of
Wildlife Damage. Figure 1 from Schwartz and Schwartz
Figure 2 from Graf et al.
Figure 3 from Burt and
Grossenheider (1976), adapted by Dave Thornhill,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Figures 4 and 5 from
Hygnstrom and Craven (1986).
Figure 6 from Boddicker
Figure 7 courtesy of
Gregerson Manufacturing Co., adapted by Jill Sack
Figure 8 from Manitoba
Fish and Wildlife agency publications, adapted by Jill
Figure 9 by M. Boddicker.
For Additional Information
Blair, G. 1981. Predator
caller’s companion. Winchester Press, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
267 pp. Boddicker, M. L., ed. 1980. Managing Rocky
Mountain furbearers. Colorado Trapper’s Assoc., LaPorte,
Colorado. 176 pp.
Bromley, M., ed. 1989.
Bear-people conflicts: proceedings of a symposium on
management strategies. Northwest Terr. Dep. Renew.
Resour. Yellowknife. 246 pp.
Burt, W. H., and R. P.
Grossenheider. 1976. A field guide to the mammals, 3d
ed. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 289 pp.
Davenport, L. B., Jr.
1953. Agriculture depredation by the black bear in
Virginia. J. Wildl. Manage. 17:331-340.
Deems, E. F., and D.
Pursley, eds. 1983. North American furbearers: a
contemporary reference. Int. Assoc. Fish Wildl. Agencies
and Maryland Dep. Nat. Resour. Annapolis, Maryland. 223
Erickson, A. W. 1957.
Techniques for livetrapping and handling black bears.
Trans. North Amer. Wildl. Conf. 22:520-543.
Graf, L. H., P. L.
Clarkson, and J. A. Nagy. 1992. Safety in bear country:
a reference manual, rev. ed. Northwest Terr. Dep. Renew.
Resour. Yellowknife. 135 pp.
Herrero, S. 1985. Bear
attacks: their causes and avoidance. New Century Publ.
Piscataway, New Jersey. 288 pp.
Hygnstrom, S. E., and S.
R. Craven. 1986. Bear damage and nuisance problems in
Wisconsin. Univ. Wisconsin Ext. Publ. G3000. Madison,
Wisconsin. 6 pp.
Hygnstrom, S. E., and T.
M. Hauge. 1989. A review of problem black bear
management in Wisconsin. Pages 163-168 in M. Bromley,
ed. Bear-people conflicts: proceedings of a symposium on
management strategies. Northwest Terr. Dep. Renew.
Jonkel, C. J., and I. McT.
Cowan. 1971. The black bear in the spruce-fir forest.
Wildl. Monogr. 27. 57 pp.
Jope, K. L. 1985.
Implications of grizzly bear habituation to hikers.
Wildl. Soc. Bull. 13:32-37.
Kolenosky, G. B., and S.
M. Strathearn. 1987. Black bear. Pages 442-454 in M.
Novak, J. A. Baker, M. E. Obbard, and B. Malloch, eds.
Wild furbearer management and conservation in North
America. Ontario Ministry of Nat. Resour. Toronto.
McArthur, K. L. 1981.
Factors contributing to effectiveness of black bear
transplants. J. Wildl. Manage. 45:102-110.
Meechan, W. R., and J. F.
Thilenius. 1983. Safety in bear country: protective
measures and bullet performance at short range. Gen.
Tech. Rep. PNW-152. US Dep. Agric., For. Serv. Portland,
Oregon. 16 pp.
Rogers, L. L. 1984.
Reactions of free-ranging black bears to capsaicin spray
repellent. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 12:58-61.
Rogers, L. L., D. W.
Kuehn, A. W. Erickson, E. M. Harger, L. J. Verme, and J.
J. Ozoga. 1976. Characteristics and management of black
bears that feed in garbage dumps, camp grounds or
residential areas. Int. Conf. Bear Res. Manage.
Rutherglen, R. A. 1973.
The control of problem black bears. British Columbia
Fish Wildl. Branch, Wildl. Manage. Rep. 11. 78 pp.
Schwartz, C. W., and E. R.
Schwartz. 1981. The wild mammals of Missouri, rev. ed.
Univ. Missouri Press, Columbia. 356 pp. Singer, D. J.
1952. American black bear. Pages 97-102 in J. Walker
McSpadden, ed. Animals of the world. Garden City Books,
Garden City, New York.
Van Wormer, J. 1966. The
world of the black bear. J. B. Lippincott Co.,
Philadelphia. 168 pp.
Wynnyk, W. P., and J. R.
Gunson. 1977. Design and effectiveness of a portable
electric fence for apiaries. Alberta Rec., Parks, and
Wildl. Fish Wildl. Div. Alberta, Canada. 11 pp.
Scott E. Hygnstrom Robert
M. Timm Gary E. Larson PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF
WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994 Cooperative Extension Division
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska -Lincoln United States Department
of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service Animal Damage Control Great Plains Agricultural
Council Wildlife Committee
James E. Miller
Program Leader, Fish and Wildlife
USDA — Extension Service Natural Resources and Rural
Washington, DC 20250