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Wild Things: Black Bears

Frank Leung Birdimages Photography/
There was a time, not so long ago, when you’d see a black bear only out in the untamed wilderness. To glimpse such a formidable creature meant you’d been hiking or camping in the backcountry, or at the very least driving through a national park.

Not so, these days: Bear-spotting is a regular affair in some parts of the country, where bears are as likely to be found diving for leftovers in suburban Dumpsters, feasting in backyard gardens, or demolishing birdfeeders as munching on nuts and berries in the forest. Sure, bears have lost woodland habitat to development, but the paradox is that they’ve also gained a bit of it back, as old farmlands make way for reforestation. Top of the food chain though they may be, these intelligent mammals have figured out that the living can be pretty cushy in the ’burbs.

Though black bears have a preference for vegetarian fare and are bashful by nature, no human should ever get blasé about close encounters with these large, powerful animals. Bears will normally flee rather than stay and fight, but those who become emboldened by easy meals and habituated to the close proximity of people may quickly lose their natural wariness.

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