An Abundance of Black Bears – By Kathleen Scavone

Accounts of black bear sightings around Lake County are on the rise. Many of my neighbors in South County have seen evidence of bears on their property. Bear scat, as you can imagine is quite large! Other evidence of the brown-to-black mammal is appearing on private game cameras from Loch Lomond, to Jago Bay, to the Oaks and more. These hungry critters, omnivores, are helping themselves to chickens, ducks and other fresh ‘snacks’. They are leaving behind broken branches on fruit trees, copiously consuming grapes in vineyards and, just like a cartoon-bear, but not a bit funny, they have helped themselves to privately owned bee hives and bins of pet food which has carelessly been left out. This is the time of year when bears begin fattening up for hyperphagia, or ‘seasonal lethargy’, when they eat almost non-stop for their annual slumber period. Black bears don’t go into a complete hibernation here,  as they do in colder habitats such as the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When they ‘den’ they may snooze under a large brush pile, beneath trees or boulders, or simply find an out-of-the-way place on the bare ground. During hyperphagia the bears are adapted to live off of their considerable fat stores; however they tend to lose a sizeable  amount of weight then. They are designed by nature to keep most of their muscle during this time.

Wild black bears, the only bears that reside in California, can  live up to 30 years.  The females weigh in at about 275 pounds, while the males can reach 500 pounds! Their distinctive tracks show 5 toes and claws. These tough claws help them climb and collect their food. Bear’s claws allow for a dexterity not found in most mammals, as their claws act similar to fingers when they are munching a meal. The bear’s range can be 8-60 square miles for a male, and 1-15 miles for the female. Black bear habitat includes forested areas, along with grasslands and brushy lands, which provide a plethora of pine nuts, acorns, beetles and other insects, many small mammals, fish and even carrion. Surprisingly enough, black bears are not only good runners but adept swimmers as well.

Although black bears are usually non-aggressive it is highly advised by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that home owners bear-proof their homes by keeping grills clean, keep food scraps and pet food in bear-proof containers, do not leave garbage cans out, bring in pets at night, secure inviting hibernation sites and more. (Please see their “Keep Me Wild” brochure website, below.)

For more information on keeping safe,  visit the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s informational brochures:

 “Homeowners and Renters Guide to Living in Bear Country” :

https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=57522&inline=1

Keep Me Wild“:

https://wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Bear

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