Our Nova Scotia forest is home to multitudes of wildlife species, each with their own important place in our eco-system.
One of the largest animals living in our forests is the American Black Bear. Nova Scotia scientist Soren Bondrup-Nielsen estimates the population of this species to be up to 12,000.
The American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is the only bear species in Nova Scotia. It ranges in size from 45-200kg (100-4401bs.), and although it is large and powerful, it is the smallest of the bear species. The standard glossy black colour with tan muzzle lives in our province, but it will also appear in colour variations of brown, cinnamon, and blond. The black bear stands at five to over six feet in height, and can attain a long-armed reach of over seven feet.
Our black bear is elusive, shy, and it mostly avoids humans. It is intelligent, curious, and has a remarkable memory. With the exception of a mother bear with her cubs, it is a solitary animal that marks out and defends its territory. Did you know that it can also climb trees?
The black bear is constantly hungry, and is always searching for food. It will eat roots, berries, nuts, grasses, insects, fish, small mammals, moose or deer, calves and carrion. The Black Bear of Nova Scotia has a lot of enduring qualities and must be respected in its habitat.
If it cannot find food in its natural habitat, it will go for beehives, farmer's crops, livestock, and our human garbage. Did you also know that a black bear may be able to smell decaying plant and animal matter up to a mile (1.5km) away? What's in your green bin?
Treat all black bears with caution and respect. They are not teddy bears to be tamed or cuddled. They are wild animals and we must learn to live in harmony with them.
Learning the facts about the black bear will go a long way to protecting us from it, and it from us.
The black bear is all around us, but sightings are not common. It is an excellent swimmer.
It can sprint short distances up to 56km/hr (35 mi/hr). You can-not outrun a black bear!
A common myth is that re-locating a 'nuisance' bear is an answer. Relocating a 'nuisance' bear is not a solution in our small province. There is not enough wilderness to accommodate it. A relocated bear will be attacked by a bear already holding a territory, or will be driven off into another bear's territory.
We live in close proximity to our black bear, so here are a few safety tips when walking in the woods.
- Never approach a bear, and do not offer it food. Make lots of noise. The bear will leave the area to avoid confrontation. Leave the area, and try to stay upwind so it doesn't smell you.
- If you encounter a bear at close range, do not run! Do not climb a tree! The black bear can do both very well. Back away. Do not make eye contact. Speak in a firm voice to it.
- To learn more about bear safety, visit http://novascotia. ca/natr/ for more detailed infor-mation from the Nova Scotia De-partment of Natural Resources.
*Facts for this article were drawn from this source.
Next time, join me to learn about our red fox.
Diana O'Connell is retired, grandmother to Olivia and Summer, writes for pleasure, and is a volunteer at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park.
You may reach her at: dianaoconnell(at)hotmail.com