It’s all too easy to think of a bear as a monstrous adversary. However, this predator is an omnivore. The black bear feeds mainly on fruits, nuts, berries, available crops, and grasses. They also eat insects, and small mammals and fish. They feed on carcasses of animals killed by winter weather. Hardly abundant, it is rare to find more than one black bear in a two square mile area. Despite the name, black bears can be brown, cinnamon, glossy black, white, or even blue in color. As a predator at the top of the food chain, however, biologists are concerned about controlling the black bears population. Complaints of damage due to bears are an all-time high in many areas.
Biologists fear the large mammals are on the verge of dangerous overpopulation and look to hunters for help. An impressive physical specimen, the black bear, presents a different challenge to hunters than the more elusive game. A male, or boar, usually weighs anywhere from three to four-hundred pounds. It is not uncommon for boars to tip the scales at more than six-hundred. The heaviest black bear on record was a whopping eight-hundred pounds. This bear is among the most intelligent of big game animals. He is deceptively quick and fast. The black bear is able to run twenty-five miles an hour and climb trees in seconds. He also possesses a keen sense of smell and seems to be able to detect danger.
The black bear has excellent hearing, but his eyesight is only fair. Several different techniques are utilized when hunting black bear. Hound dog packs can be used to chase down the massive mammals. The bears can run for miles, however, and will often lose the pursuing dogs. If cornered, it may also kill the canines. The goal of the pack is to tree the bear for the hunters to shoot easily. Bear baiting is considered cruel by some and is illegal in some areas. The technique capitalizes on a bear’s strong sense of smell. From up to three miles away, the black bear can detect the smell of the food scraps left by the hunter.
This is especially effective in the spring when bears emerge from hibernation and are extremely hungry. Another technique is called spot-and stalk hunting. From a high vantage point like a canyon, hunters simply watch a meadow or patch of berries and wait for a bear to appear. Calling is also a common way to hunt the black bear. Duplicating the sound of a rodent of fawn-in-distress has proven successful. Whatever technique is used to draw out the large animal, bear hunters need heavy rifles to make the kill. At least .30 caliber rifles and heavy bullets are recommended to ensure a quick and merciful kill.