Black Bear Hunting Canada. Discover where to hunt Black Bear (Ursus americanus). Also, learn to identify it and study its' physical description, Range, Habitat, Diet, Food Strategy, Breeding Habits, and Status.

Provinces with Black Bear Hunting

Yukon Resident and Non-Resident
North West Territories Resident and Non-Rssident
British Columbia Resident and Non-Resident
Alberta Resident and Non-Resident
Saskatchewan Resident and Non-Resident
Manitoba Resident and Non-Resident
Ontario Resident and Non-Resident
Quebec Resident and Non-Resident
New Brunswick Resident and Non-Resident
Nova Scotia Resident and Non-Resident
New Foundland - Labrador Resident and Non-Resident


Selecting a Calibre for Black Bear

Vital Shot Placement for Black Bear

Vital Shot Placement for Black Bear

Photo from: Pinio

Modified by Canada-hunts.ca

Selection of a Hunting caliber for black bear has many articles and forms all citing different results. Results that appeared to be driven by what it is that you are doing.

Are you hunting over Bait? Then a 12 guage slug and one my personal favorites the 45/70 Gov. These firearms are great for short shooting ranges and are going to definitely going to do the trick.

Are you doing a spot and stalk. Now the choices really expand out and I would not recommend the 12 gauge. But the 45/70 with one of the newer developed loads by Hornady would be comfortable out to 200 yards. Getting back to basics the top choices all seem to favor a heavy weight 30 cal. bullet in the 200 grain plus class. Especially, if you anticipate a shot that is longer than 200 yards.

Personal choices here are simple. Here you have an animal that, unlike a deer, if you miss can and may turn on you (although with a black bear it is not the norm.). When agitated this bear will generally turn and run. This animal does have a heavy bone structure protecting a lot of its vitals, thick skin, and heavy fur to cover up a wound and make tracking a blood trail very difficult. So shot placement is paramount.

Compound the fore mentioned factors, if you wound this animal it will head to the heaviest piece of bush that it can. So, again personally, I like to keep the distance short and make sure that shot placement is absolutely where I intend it to be.  

Black Bear Tracks  
Front bear paw

Front

  • 3.75" - 8.0" (9.5 -20.3 cm) long
  • 3.25" - 6" (8.3 - 15.2 cm) wide

Rear

  • 5.375" - 8.875" (13.7 -22.5 cm) long
  • 3.5" - 6.0" (8.3 -15.2 cm) Wide

Trail Width

  • 8" - 14" (20.3 - 35.6 cm)
Front Paw Image Source: California Department of Fish and Wildlife - Flickr  

 

 

Black Bear Scat

black bear scat
 Photo By: Woodlywonderworks - Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 Range - Distribution and Habitat of Black Bear

Black Bear Range Map of Canada

Black Bear Range Map of Canada
  • Original map of canada: By Nzeemin [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

The black bear once covered most of Canada from coast to coast. However, since confederation the black bear has been pushed out of Prince Edward Island, AnticositiIsland, and the southern portions of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

Provinces with black bear report stable populations and from 1990 estimates, the total Canadian black bear population is between 396,000 and 476,000 individuals, This estimate excludes black bear populations in New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan.

The range of a black bear depends on its sex, age, season and population density. Females will have ranges of 6.4 to 25.9 km² (2.5 to 10 sq. miles while Males typically have a home range that would be 26 -152 km² (10 to 59 sq. miles)

Throughout their range, habitats preferred by American black bears have a few shared characteristics. They are often found in areas with a relatively inaccessible terrain, a thick layer of vegetation beneath the main canopy and large quantities of edible material (especially masts). The adaptation to woodlands and thick vegetation in this species may have originally been due to the black bear having evolved alongside larger, more aggressive bear species, such as the extinct short-faced bear and the still living grizzly bear, that monopolized more open habitats and the historic presence of larger predators such as Smilodon and the American lion that could have preyed on black bears.

Although found in the largest numbers in wild, undisturbed areas and rural regions, black bears can adapt to surviving in some numbers in urban fringe regions as long as they contain easily accessible foods and some vegetative coverage. In the northeast part of the Canadian and American range, prime habitat consists of hardwoods like beech, maple, oak, birch, and coniferous hardwoods. Corn crops and oak-hickory mast are also common sources of food in some sections of the northeast; small, thick swampy areas provide excellent refuge cover largely in stands of white cedar. Along the Pacific coast, redwood, Sitka spruce, and hemlocks predominate as the larger, taller trees shading the younger trees, hardwoods, and brush. Within these northern forest types are early growth areas important for black bears, such as fields of brush, wet and dry meadows, high tidelands, riparian areas and a variety of mast-producing hardwood species.

In the Rockies, most of the bears range consists of spruce-fir forest. Important non-forested areas here are wet meadows, riparian areas, avalanche chutes, roadsides, burns, sidehill parks, and subalpine ridgetops (dense forest to alpine tundra). In areas where human development is relatively low, such as stretches of Canada and Alaska, American black bears tend to be found more regularly in lowland regions. Supposedly the largest black bears with weights of 650 pounds can be hunted in parts of Labrador. Here you will find that the black bear exclusively roams semi-open areas that are more suited to brown bears that are absent from this landscape.

American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

Description of Black Bear

Black Bear Boars Sows
Life Span 18 years average
Shoulder Height 2-3 feet (.6-.9m)
Overall Length 4-7 feet (1.2-2m)
Weight 150-300 lbs (68-158 kg) 41–170 kg (90–375 lb)
Weight at Birth 0.5 pounds
Antlers Not applicable Not applicable
Hearing The bear's hearing is twice as good as ours and has a much higher audible frequency range up into the ultrasonic range of 16-20 KHz.
Eyes  Bears see in color and have sharp vision close-up. Long range vision unknown.
Dental Formula I3/3, C1/1, PM 2-4/2-4, M 2/3 = 34-42
Body Temperature Normal 100 deg. F - 88 while in hibernation
Feet Large foot with 5 toes and claws.
Can Travel 30 m/hr, 50 km/hr.
Diet omnivorous: plants, fruits, nuts, insects, honey, salmon, small mammals and carrion
Sexual Maturity 5 - 6 years. 3-4 years
Breeding Time Sows mate every second year in June or July
Gestation N/A 63-70 days
Birthing N/A January
# in Litter N/A 1-6 cubs; generally 2
Weaning 6-8 months of age
Communication

 

The black bear has evolved in forested habitats and are agile climbers. Consequently, when a black bear is threatened, it will usually seek the safety of the forest rather than stand its ground and fight.

Black bears are mostly black or a shade of brown, however, they will vary in color from blonde to black and sometimes even grey-blue. (Spirit Bear)

The black bear has a dense underfur with long, course, thick guard hairs. Unlike the grizzly (brown) bears' fur which is shaggy or coarse. The American black bear is distinguishable its Asiatic black bear cousin by the lack of a white mark on the chin and hairier footpads. 

Black Bear Description

Black Bear Description

Photo From: Pixabay

Modified By: Canada-Hunts.ca

Across Canada, approximately 70% of all black bears are black, however, in the Rocky Mountains only 50% of black bears are black. Across their range, you will find colors that range from cinnamon, blond or light brown in color, and because of this coloring they may sometimes be mistaken for grizzly bears (and other types of brown bear). The fur is generally uniform in color except for the brown muzzle and occasional white on the chest. 

Some the features that distinguishes the Black Bear from a brown bear are: no shoulder hump, it is smaller in size, has narrower shorter claws, and has a flatter skull.

Their face is blunt, have small eyes, small, rounded, erect ears and the tail is short.

The average lifespan in the wild is 18 years, though it is quite possible for wild specimens to survive for more than 23 years. 39 years of age is the record for a wild bear, while 44 years old for one that was in captivity has been recorded.

The biggest wild American black bear ever recorded was a male from New Brunswick, shot in November 1972, that weighed 409 kg (902 lb) after it had been dressed, meaning it weighed an estimated 500 kg (1,100 lb) in life, and measured 2.41 m (7.9 ft) long.

The Differences Between Black Bears and Grizzly Bears

Differences between black bear and grizzly bear
 

 The black bear also has a very large family with 5 subspecies occurring in Canada.

Black Bear Mother with Cubs

Black Bear - Mother and Cubs
Photo By: Celley/USFWS - Flickr

Ursus americanus altifrontalis

The Olympic black bear of the Pacific Northwest coast from central British Columbia through to northern California and inland to the tip of northern Idaho and British Columbia.

Ursus americanus americanus

Known as the Eastern black bear, the home of this bear is from Eastern Montana to the Atlantic coast as well as from southern Alaska through Canada eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. The range of this bear is thought to be on the rise in some areas. The Eastern Black Bear is large-bodied subspecies, almost all specimens have black fur, and can be found where ever suitable habitat can be found.

Ursus americanus hamiltoni

Known as the Newfoundland black bear, this bear is generally bigger than its mainland relatives and ranges in size from 90 to 270 kg (200 to 600 lb), averaging 135 kg (298 lb).

 

Spirit Bear

Spirit Bear
Photo By: Maximilian Helm from Dresden, Deutschland (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ursus americanus kermodei Kermode bear

Due to a recessive gene bluish tinged black bears called "spirit bears" or "kermodes" occur along a portion of coastal islands and the adjacent mainland of south-western British Columbia and the central coast of British Columbia. The other 90% of this subspecies appear as normal-colored black bears.

Ursus Americanus Vancouveri

The Vancouver Island black bear. This bear is found on Vancouver Island of British Columbia. It is found in the northern section of the island, but will occasionally appear in the suburbs of a Victoria metropolitan area.

 

Black Bear Habitat

The black bear is typically a solitary animal and the sow / cub relationship is the only real social structure of this species. It will typically limit itself to forested areas that have thick plant growth under the canopy, but it will also utilize marshes, thickets, tundra, and mountainous areas as well.

A Black bear's weight will vary according to its age, sex, health, and season. Seasonal variations in weight can be very pronounced. In the autumn, their pre-den weight tends to be 30% higher than in spring. When black bears emerge from their dens. Black bears on the East Coast tend to be heavier on average than those on the West Coast, although black bears follow Bergmann's rule and bear's from the northwest are often slightly heavier than the bears from the southeast.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of Black Bear

Black Bear Fishing Salmon

Black Bear Fishing Salmon
By Alan Vernon [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Black bears will eat almost anything of that is readily available, with up to 90% of their diet being is plant material. Black bears seldom eat plant roots and berry crops like blueberries, buffalo berries, strawberries, elderberries, Saskatoon berries, black cherries, and apples are a mainstay of their diet. Mast in the form of acorns, hazelnuts, and beechnuts are other foods that the black bear will forage for. Before the berry crops come to bear, or in years when the berry crop has failed, black bears will forage widely for food including human-made sources thus causing bear - human encounter of the too close kind.

The majority of the black bear's animal diet consists of insects such as bees, yellow jackets, ants and their larvae. They will overturn logs, tear apart old stumps, and overturn stones while hunting for these insects and grubs. Black bears are fond of the developing bees in honey comps, and will gnaw through trees if hives are too deeply set into the trunks for them to reach them with their paws. Once the hive is breached, black bears will scrape the honeycombs together with their paws and eat them, regardless of stings from the bees.

Fish, small mammals, and birds are sometimes on the black bear’s menu. In the spring some bears prey upon newborn moose calves (black bears account for 34% of moose calves that die), deer fawns, caribou calves, or elk calves. Bears are also attracted by carrion, or dead animal flesh. 

Black bears that live in northern coastal regions (especially the Pacific coast) will fish for salmon during the night, as their black fur is easily spotted by salmon in the daytime. However, the white furred black bears of the islands of western Canada have a 30% greater success rate in catching salmon than their black furred counterparts. Other fish including suckers, trout and catfish are readily caught when possible.

Black Bear Breeding and Reproduction

Black Bears Mating
Black Bear Mating
Photo By: By North American Bear Center [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Black Bears are solitary by nature, however, June and July is mating season and males will seek out receptive females to breed with. With females reaching sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age (Sows living in more developed areas tend to get pregnant at a younger age) and males at 5 to 6 years of age. Black bears will mate with multiple individuals during this 2 - 3 month period. Males try to mate with several females but large, dominant ones may violently claim a female if another mature male comes near. Sows tend to be short tempered with their mates after copulating.

The female's fertilized eggs undergo delayed development and are not implanted in the sow’s womb until November. The gestation period lasts 235 days, and litters of one to six cubs (usually 2 or 3) are born in late January or early February. New born cubs weigh 280–450 g (0.62–0.99 lb) and measure 20.5 cm (8.1 in) in length. They are born with fine, gray, down ike hair, their hind quarters are underdeveloped, and they are blind at birth. They typically open their eyes after 28–40 days and begin walking after 5 weeks.

Cubs are dependent on their mother's milk for 30 weeks, and will reach independence at 16–18 months. At the age of six weeks, they attain 900 g (2.0 lb), by 8 weeks they reach 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) and by the age of 6 months they weigh 18 to 27 kg (40 to 60 lb). Both male and female black bears reach sexual maturity at the age of three years of age and females generally mate every other year after their first cub.

Cubs stay with mother for their first spring, summer, and fall, then den with her for their second winter. The cubs then disperse at approximately 16 months of age, before the next mating season.

Status of the Black Bear In Canada 

Black Bear Cubs

Black Bear Cubs
Photo From: Pixabay

The attitude toward bears has always been one of caution, respect, and even reverence. The black bear is held in great respect by many aboriginal cultures, and any hunter of the tribe who has killed a bear is to command considerable respect. In the early days of European settlement, bear hunters made their living by hunting and trapping bears, wolves, and cougars because of their presumed danger to livestock and perhaps people.

Bear meat, if properly prepared, is considered tasty by many people who enjoy eating wild game. (Spring bear, less than 300 pounds are the tastiest). Bears are often killed illegally because people simply will not tolerate them near their livestock, cultivated fields, houses, cabins, or campgrounds.

Many hunters consider this animal to be a prize because the black bear is large, elusive, and can test the skills of a hunter. Many provinces and territories have recognized this desire by hunters and are cashing in on additional revenues in way of hunting licences but this legal hunting is probably needed in order to aid the moose and deer populations. Seasonally, in areas where legal hunting is permitted, it represents one of the major causes of death for bears two years of age and older. Large males are usually harvested more often than sows because the males are less cautious and travel more widely. As hunting pressure grows the sows do become more susceptible to being harvested by a hunter. The issue here is that the cubs of a harvested sow may be abandoned, with that in mind. Some provinces have recognized orphaning and have instituted regulations against the taking of females with cubs.

In Canada, the black bear is not considered to be at risk and about 20,000 bears are harvested annually, but because of their vast numbers, regulated hunting is not considered a threat to the bear population. The number of hunting seasons (fall, spring, or both), their duration, and the bag limits vary among provinces and territories. That is why it is important to check hunting regulations for the province or territory that you are going to hunt in. 

Young bears in both hunted and non-hunted populations sometimes die from accidents and predation by Bobcats, Lynx, Cougar, Coyotes, Wolves, Grizzly Bears, and cannibalism from large male black bears. With the exception of the rare confrontation with an adult brown bear or gray wolf pack, adult black bears are not usually subject to natural predation. It is the cubs that are taken right from under a sleeping mother or den flooding after birth that occasionally kills newborn cubs. There is a single record of a golden eagle snatching a yearling cub. Once out of hibernation, mother bears will usually fight off most potential predators. Even a cougar will get the boots by an angry mother bear if they are discovered stalking the cubs. 

Parasites and diseases sometimes infest black bears but they rarely die from them.  A microscopic nematode or roundworm that cannot be seen with the naked eye can cause trichinosis in black bears. This parasite can be killed by cooking your meat well done. For this reason, hunters are cautioned that they can become infected from this disease and all bear meat should be cooked carefully before consumption.

Black Bears have been illegally taken because of their perceived medicinal values. Bear gall bladders, bear paws, and other body parts were and still are in demand by some in some ethic cultures. To combat this practice, since 1992 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) the black bear has enjoyed some protection. Any hunter wishing to transport any part of a black bear through customs of any country that is a member of CITES must obtain a CITES export permit from the exporting country. However, it should be noted that simple possession of gall bladders, and / or paws is illegal in some provinces.

References

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_black_bear
  • http://lcvirtualwildlife.ca/index.php/blackbear
  • https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/ca/ca-nr-05-en.pdf
  • Hinterland Who's Who - http://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/black-bear.html
  • http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/publications-maps/documents/BearCountry_2016_ENG_WEB.pdf
  • https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/trichinellosis/hunters.html

 

Photo Credits - Background

American Black Bear with her Cub - Ron Lacey - Flickr

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