When it comes to black bears, there are two types of people. People who want to see black bears in the woods and people who hope to God they never see a Black Bear in the woods. Just recently, I was rooting for the black bear sighted in Cary to make it to the park, but alas, it looks like he didn’t make it. The last bear we had in the park was in 2009 but like the Cary bear he was probably just passing through.
Living previously at Mt. Mitchell State Park, my family and I got used to black bears (Ursus americanus). Bears looking into our living room window, bear scat in the yard, screams of the campers behind our house with a bear on their campsite and our inability to let our infant girl stay outside all year when she was napping; as is the Czech way. Many times, in the winter, I would snow track the bears that were doing a little walkabout back to their den. I never found out what they were doing up and about when they still should be in torpor (they are not true hibernators), but it was exciting tracking.
My most memorable bear encounter was when I was hiking off trail in the mountains of South Carolina. As I gained the top of a ridge, a summer storm cut loose, and the thunder rolled up and down the valley. I sat through the storm with my back on a rock enjoying the drips from the leaves after the rain had stopped. I heard some sound to my right about 25 ft away and a mother bear with two cubs came out of a mountain laurel thicket. She didn’t see me or smell me yet, so I clicked with my mouth the sound you use when you are calling your dog. She froze, gave me an intense stare as if deciding to kill, cripple or just maim me, and went “Whhhooof”. The cubs reacted immediately and climbed a tree to the left. The mom kept staring, and I, probably like most people just before they are mauled, was sure my good intentions would affect a non-violent outcome. She swayed her head left and right three times and just started slowly down the mountain, calling “Whhhhhooof,” once more and the cubs descended effortlessly and quickly caught up. It was, for many reasons, my lucky day.
Black bears are the most common bear in the United States as well as the smallest. Craven county holds the record N.C. black bear weighing 880 lbs. A more average black bear is between 150 and 400 lbs. Black bears are generally not aggressive and will flee from humans in most cases.
Unfortunately, a lot of people have anthropomorphized the bear due to cute movie portrayals, television shows, and feelings that they are indeed teddy bears. The thrill of being close to what seems like a “tame” bear leads people to feed them, adopt them, and feel falsely safe with them. This has caused many lapses in common sense in how you treat a wild animal leading to yearly injuries and rare fatalities. Here is a look at a scary video where the man survived but seemed to lose his ability to speak the Queen’s English.
The question you are probably asking now is “Just how cool is the black bear?” I mean, any animal that might help us explore Mars has got to be Snoopy with sun glasses on cool. Just for fun, check out this article.
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