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The Black Bear
Identification of the black bear and the grizzly bear, and how to avoid conflicts with them.

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While elk hunting in bear country, it will be important for you to know the identification of the black bear and the grizzly bear, and how to avoid conflicts with them, as much of their ranges will in fact overlap. When looking at a black bear from the side, from the forehead to the nose, it will slope in a straight line. While the same profile of a grizzly will have a dished out appearance, similar to most dogs. Also when looking at the back of ol' blackie, it will have a straight profile, while the grizz will have a distinct hump on it's back above the shoulders.
Do not rely on the color of the bear to distinguish if it is a black bear or a grizzly bear. Not all black bears are black in color. Black bears do indeed come in various shades of brown. They may be cinnamon, dark brown, reddish brown, chocolate, light brown, and all shades of brown in between, and may even be blonde. In the eastern U.S. 99% of all the black bears are indeed black in color, with little variation. In southwestern Colorado, over 80% of the black bear are dark brown or chocolate, and in places like Wyoming and Montana, it seems to be an even split between "brown" black bears and "black" black bears.
The average black bear stands between 2 and 3 feet at the shoulders, and in the vegetation may be overlooked very easily. Because of their shortness, they will stand on their hind legs to enable them to see. They will also stand on stumps and tree trunks. They can run in spurts over 30 mph, and can swim very well also.The black bear can live to be around 30 years old, and some have been found to be even older.
The black bear is considered a carnivore, but most of it's diet is vegetation. Blackie is known as an opportunist and will take advantage of a good situation when it comes to food. He will feed in hunting camps if given the opportunity, and return frequently for easy eats. He is a scavenger and will feed at dumps and on the gut piles left behind. They have long curved claws that are perfect for digging, grabbing, and climbing.
Keep a clean camp and food out of reach of bears and you should have no problems with black bears. There are more and more conflicts with black bears in the backcountry, but this is due to more and more people hiking, biking, and hunting than there were years ago, causing more pressure on the bears. I have seen many hunting camps inviting trouble from both black bears and grizzlies, because they were too lazy, or just unaware to use common sense and follow the Forest Service guidelines. I have seen game animals and food hung from a branch next to a sleeping tent, and this was hung only a couple of feet off the ground.
It is your responsibility to avoid conflicts with bears, as they will react by instinct and can cause serious harm and even death. Your steps to avoid these conflicts can save your life as well as others in your party.



To view the difference between a black and a grizzly bear
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