They have five toes, each with a well-developed claw. The adults weigh between 100-350 pounds, and they are, well, as cute as teddy bears. Hello California black bears! Some say they are dangerous but aren’t all wild animals? In some areas, especially near, or in, the national parks and forests, they have been known to break into restaurants and houses, causing many upsets. I know it is inconvenient, to say the least, but, I must ask, isn’t this their forest and park? Do humans not leave food and trash out to tempt them? Have we humans not greatly harassed their habitats?
Bears mate in June and July. Reproductive success is directly related to the abundance of high quality summer and fall foods. You see, if bears eat a lot of human food and trash, it doesn’t really count as “high quality” foods, and effects their reproductive success. We must keep our trash and human food out of their faces.
Wild female black bears have a very remarkable trait called “delayed implantation“, whereas an adult female will carry a fertilized egg in her womb for many months. This allows the mama to time the birth of her cubs so that they are not born too early or too late. If food is scarce, she will not have enough body fat and the egg won’t attach. The females reproduce at about 4 1/2 years old and generally breed every other year, and produce 2-4 cubs per litter. The young are born around the 1st of February while Mama is “hibernating”. The little cubs weigh less than 1 pound at birth, nurse in the den (ahhh!), and emerge in April or May at about 5-7 pounds. They will stay with Mama for up to two years, following, and learning all about being a bear from her. Go Mama Bear!
Bears “hibernate” for 3-4 months, but it isn’t really a true hibernation! It is called that, for convenience sake, but it is, in truth, something called “seasonal lethargy”. Bears keep their body temperatures at 88 degrees and live off of their own fat. By contrast, the body temperature of smaller hibernators such as marmots, chipmunks, and ground squirrels may drop below 40°F. These smaller creatures are known as the “true hibernators”. Bears can go on sleeping because of their ability to retain body heat. They can wake if disturbed, although they require a few minutes to awaken.
One last fascinating fact: Bears have the ability to regenerate and repair bones by a mysterious mechanism during hibernation. Cool! Scientists are investigating this automatic regeneration to try to find out how it works.
You can click here for a free, printable “Keep Me Wild” bear poster, courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Seeing first-hand the beauty of the California black bear is truly a remarkable experience. I hope that my family and I can be of help to these majestic creatures. Thank you so much for reading, and please let me know your thoughts, ideas or black bear stories.
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