We have seen an increased buzz about bear sightings lately. While this can be scary, please remember that as humans build out more, we are taking away from the places where bears can live – they have had to adapt to having humans around.
Black bears are generally shy around people, but they may approach our dwellings if they are looking for food. If they do find food, they could come back, and even get used to humans. Becoming comfortable around humans is extremely dangerous for wildlife, so it is important to do everything we can to prevent that from happening. Watch this video, which is one of a series of our humorous takes on wildlife education, and read below to learn more about living with bears.
BLACK BEARS IN MASSACHUSETTS
The bears you encounter in Massachusetts are black bears, the most common of the three bear types that live in North America (the others being brown bears and polar bears). Black bears grow to about five feet tall and can weigh 100 to 600 pounds.
Approximately 80 to 85% of a black bear’s diet is plant material, while the remaining 15% is made up of animal protein, making them omnivorous. Black bears will eat almost anything, such as grubs, frogs, fish, snakes, ants, grasses, nuts, and berries. Bears may forage up to 20 hours a day during autumn, increasing their body weight by 35% in preparation for winter. During this time they enter “hyperphagia,” which translates to “excessive eating.”
Black bears enter their dens to hibernate between early November and mid-December. For about 100 days the bears will not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate. Their fat stores provide them with nutrients and water, and bears typically lose about 30% of their weight during hibernation.
Black bears live solitary lives except when they are courting mates and rearing cubs. Cubs are usually born in the spring and stay with their mothers until they are about 2 years old. They become sexually mature at about age 3 but usually don’t breed until age 5.