Did you know black bears are not always black? They often appear in different shades of cinnamon and brown. Their large ears, long snout, and round head help biologists distinguish them from brown bears and grizzlies. There are 16 subspecies of black bears in North America, with 10,000-15,000 individuals of the California Black Bear, Ursus americanus californiensis, residing in the Sierra Nevadas. Black bears primarily forage omnivorously on grass, berries, blossoms, grubs, fish, and small mammals at night, but occasionally feed during the day, which is when they run into problems with humans. Car strikes and bear-human conflicts, because of unprotected trash and pet food, have caused the deaths of about 80 black bears each year between Nevada and California. When bears are involved in a conflict with a human or human property, they are removed or killed to prevent public safety concerns. However, bear complaints have increased because more people are living in bear habitat. These bears are difficult to deter as they have become increasingly habituated to getting food from garbage cans. Efforts to diminish habituation have been led by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, who first trap the bear, release it in the same area, then deter the bear with pepper spray or rubber bullets. In the springtime, bears come out of hibernation hungry and search for whatever food they can find. In many cases, this is human trash out in the open, and this is the season when most conflicts occur. Remember to keep your trash contained and locked, get bear-proof containers, and monitor your pets, fruit trees, and bird feeders. If you do find a bear in your neighborhood or backyard, call the NDOW Bear Hotline at 775-688-BEAR.
This blog is managed by the staff and volunteers of Galena Creek Visitor Center. We write about parts of the natural world that we find fascinating and want to teach others about, as well as keeping you updated on the Visitor Center and park. If you want to learn more, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we share upcoming events, updates on the ecology of the park, and highlights from each month.