Let’s start with some background. Black bears are big creatures- males can weigh over 650 pounds and stand seven feet tall. Depending on location, a black bear’s coat can have a range of hues- from snow white and lemon blonde to chocolate brown and the dark, rich black that is the source of the bears’ name. Besides their size and coloring, black bears also have a unique, shuffle-like walk. This walk is due to both the difference in length between their hindlegs and forelegs and their stride, in which the legs on one side move together instead of alternating like other animals.
Black bears are perhaps best known for building dens and hibernating during the winter. During winter hibernation, the bears don’t eat or drink. However, the hibernation of black bears is not true hibernation, as the bears are still alert and their body temperature does not drop. In January and February, hibernating females give birth and nurse their young.
Finally, before we discuss the human-bear relationship, it’s important to note the wide diet of black bears. They are omnivores and will eat almost anything- carrion, deer fawns, cabbage, and even tree bark. They eat less meat than grizzly bears, but they prey on the same animals. In almost all areas, black bears sit at the top of the food chain (except when they coexist with other species, like brown bears and grizzly bears).