America’s most adaptable bruin
The black bear (Ursus americanus) is the most common and widely–distributed bear species in North America. However, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is one of the few areas south of Canada where black bears coexist with the grizzly bears.
In Yellowstone, about 50% of black bears are black in color; others are brown, blond, and cinnamon. Black bears eat almost anything, including grass, fruits, tree cambium, eggs, insects, fish, elk calves, and carrion. Their short, curved claws enable them to climb trees but do not allow them to dig for roots or ants as well as a grizzly bear can.
Black bears have few natural predators, although both cubs and adults are occasionally killed by their own kind or by the other large carnivores with which they compete for food—wolves, cougars, and grizzly bears.
From 1910 to the 1960s, park managers allowed visitors to feed black bears along park roads, although the National Park Service officially frowned on this activity. During this time, along with Old Faithful, black bears became the symbol of Yellowstone for many people, and are still what some people think of when Yellowstone bears are mentioned. Since 1960, park staff have sought to deter bears from becoming conditioned to human foods.
As winter arrives and bears get ready for hibernation, it’s imperative to remember that Jackson is in the heart of bear country. Please bring your bear spray when recreating in the back country, and always properly store food and garbage as to not habituate bears to human food!