Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Summertime Bears

Posted by  //  August 15, 2023  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Now and then, it’s good to put black bears back in the spotlight, as the better we understand bears, the safer we can coexist.  

August brings the dog days of summer, but bears don’t sweat it (literally) as they lack sweat glands.  Instead, they have traits and behaviors to help beat the heat.  By summer, bears have shed most of their winter undercoat which improves air circulation, but enough remains to shield their skin from the sun.  They also pant when they’re hot, and dissipate heat through their big paws and other sparsely furred areas.

Black bears are generally most active at dusk and dawn.  During the hottest parts of the day, they’ll rest under shady trees and other cool spots, but might also find the cool stones on a shaded patio or the underside of a deck inviting refuges.  Bears will wallow in mud, plop belly-down in wetlands, sit in streams, and swim around lakes to cool down, so be especially “bear aware” when hiking near water.  Some folks have even captured videos of bears using koi ponds, swimming pools, and lawn sprinklers to cool off!

By now, most cubs born this year are weaned and learning foraging lessons from Mom.  It’s a myth that black bear mothers are extremely dangerous, as most actually flee from humans.  Still, never approach them.  Instead, leave the bears lots of room, even if it means curtailing your activity.  

Of last year’s offspring that got chased off by their mothers earlier this spring, male cubs face extra challenges — because unlike females, which can live nearby their moms, sub-adult males must relocate.  Hunger pangs and inexperience can lead them into trouble when they wander into neighborhoods in search of easy meals like unsecured garbage, greasy BBQ grills, pet food, and birdseed.  Unfortunately, when we provide even inadvertent foods sources for bears we do them a huge disservice, as a fed bear often winds up a dead bear. 

Article by Margie Manthey
Photo by Tammy Nash

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