Black bear (Ursus americanus)

an alert black bear hidden behind trees and underbrush

Black bear (Ursus americanus)

Despite their reputation as predators, black bears mostly consume plant matter. They are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever they find – including berries, carrion, insects, and any delicious-smelling items they might find at a campsite. Signs are posted across GTNP, reminding visitors to “Be Bear Aware,” and practice habits that keep people and bears safe. When visiting, prevent scavenging and unwanted bear encounters by keeping food put away, sealed in bear-safe containers, and stored in places that bears cannot break into.

Both black bears and grizzlies inhabit the park and draw visitors from across the globe. Distinguishing the two goes beyond size and color, which can be misleading. Instead, when you find a bear, check for these distinguishing characteristics! Does it have a shoulder hump? A shoulder hump is a defining characteristic of grizzly bears – you won’t see it on a black bear. What shape is the snout? Black bears have a straight face from their forehead to their nose; grizzlies have a concave face. What do the tracks look like? Rounded prints are typical for black bears. Also, their claws are shorter and more curved, so the claw marks appear closer to the toe pads. Grizzly tracks are more square-shaped with claw marks to match their longer nails.

Written by Shawna Wolf
PC: YNP on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/oG7xrv