A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore
A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. A shortage of berries this year may have encouraged the bear to come further down. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

American Black Bear – Urus Americanus

Why This Animal?

I have always been a devoted wildlife observer, yet in all my years of living in ‘Bear Country,’ I was never lucky enough to see one.

As a little kid I remember straining to look out the car window as my family made trips to Banff, eyes wide, searching for a tell-tale tuft of black or brown fur showing from behind a tree or out in a field.

This summer, after 19 years of waiting, I got my wish. Less than a kilometre out from Canmore, eating berries by the roadside, was a wild black bear.

Checking that the side-road we were on was clear, as to not create bear-jam (a traffic jam caused by people stopping to watch a bear, which can disrupt both traffic and the bear), we pulled over, and I got out my camera and started clicking.

A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. A shortage of berries this year may have encouraged the bear to come further down. (Photo by Robin Contos/SAIT)

The small bear grazed unbothered as I watched. His tiny eyes glistened in the sun and his pink tongue darted out from time to time to taste the saskatoons. He truly made a magnificent spectacle.

This experience, in fact, made such an impact on me that I decided to write my first column piece to be about black bears.

Animal Profile

Black bears are industrious, curious, and generally unaggressive creatures. The species name can be misleading as this kind of bear can come in a variety of colours, ranging between shades of brown, grey, and even white.

The black bear is the smallest and most common bear in Canada, weighing between 100-180 lbs. An adult will spend the majority of its waking time either eating, or searching for food, according to OntarioParks.com.

In fact, one of the biggest threats to a black bear’s life is starvation. Because they spend half of the year asleep, along with the majority of their diet being berries and insects, they must tirelessly forage in order to fulfill their caloric needs.

In fact, according to Yellow Stone Bear World (a wildlife drive-thru park), during spring and summer a black bear will consume roughly 5,000 calories a day and forage for about eight hours. However, in the fall, this dedication to finding food can increase to foraging for 20 hours a day and consuming 20,000 calories in order to prepare for hibernation.

A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore
A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. A shortage of berries this year may have encouraged the bear to come further down. (Photo by Robin Contos/SAIT)

Due to this endless search for food, it is easy for human communities or camping areas to attract these mammals, with the smells of foods and garbage. Mountainside urban areas often have bear-proofed garbage bins and special regulations in place to keep them from attracting bears into their communities.

Not inviting bears into human-occupied areas is very important to their survival as a species. Based on the information provided by the Government of Alberta, bears who become comfortable with humans often have stories which end poorly. From getting hit by cars, to being relocated away from their cubs and dens, to even being shot at.

Black Bears must be left in the wild to thrive.

Fun Facts

  • Out of 600,000 Black Bears in North America, 40,000 reside in Alberta, with up to 10,000 Black Bear cubs being born here every year.
  • Black Bears are Omnivores and their diet changes depending on what foods are available throughout the seasons.
  • Black Bears will lose up to half of their body weight during hibernation, while not losing bone density or muscle mass.
A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore
A Black Bear eats berries near the roadside just outside of in Canmore on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. A shortage of berries this year may have encouraged the bear to come further down. (Photo by Robin Contos/SAIT)

Robin Contos

Robin Contos is a first-year journalism student, and they are the Weal's social media manager. They take a keen interest in animals and the environment. Robin wants to be active in environmental journalism after they’ve finished school. You can follow them on Instagram: @red_robin_photography 

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