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The Story Of The Bear:
 Story Of The Bear

 Brown Bear

 American Black Bear.

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 Parti-colored Bear

 Polar Bear

 Himalayan Black Bear

 A Funny Little Bear

 A Bear That Wears Spectacles

American Black Bear

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The American black bear differs from the brown bear much more than does the grizzly. It is a smaller animal than the brown bear, with a smaller head, sharper muzzle, and more regularly convex profile of the face, as well as a much shorter hind-foot. In length this bear seldom exceeds 5 feet. The fur is less shaggy, and altogether smoother and more glossy than that of either the brown or grizzly bear; being of a uniformly black color, except on the muzzle, where it becomes tawny yellow. Occasionally specimens are found with white margins to the lips and white streaks on the chest. The smaller size of the hind-feet of this species renders its trail distinguishable at a glance from that of the grizzly bear.

The black bear formerly had a wider distribution than the grizzly, extending from Labrador and Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the east to the 1 vest coasts of the continent. It frequented all the mountains, the thickets of the vast plains, and every creek, river, and bay or bottom. At the present day its habitat is confined to some portions of the various ranges of mountains south of the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and, east of the Mississippi River, to parts of those portions of the Mississippi River and its tributaries which are yet unsettled, and where it has been able to escape destruction from hunters. Some few are yet found in the dense thickets of the Colorado, Trinity and Brazos rivers.

As with other bears, the male is much larger than the female; when full grown the former will stand about 3 feet in height, and will often turn the scale at from 600 to 700 pounds.

The food of the American black bear consists not only of mice and other small mammals, turtles, frogs, and fish, but also, and largely, of ants and their eggs, bees and their honey, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, blue-berries, and various other fruits, vegetables, and roots. He sometimes makes devastating raids upon the barn-yard, slaying and devouring sheep, calves, pigs, and poultry. It is claimed that the black bear is growing more carnivorous and discontented with a diet of herbs. Assuredly, he is growing bolder. He is also developing a propensity to destroy more than he can eat. It is fortunate that an animal of the strength and ferocity which he displays when aroused seldom attacks man. The formation of his powerful jaws and terrible canine teeth are well adapted to seize and hold his prey, and his molars are strong enough to crush the bones of an ox. His great strength, however, lies in his fore-arms and paws. His mode of attacking his prey is not to seize it with his teeth, but to, strike terrific blows with his fore-paws.

His weakness is for pork, and to obtain it he will run any risk. When the farmers, after suffering severe losses at his hands, become unusually alert, he retires to the depths of the forest and solaces himself with a young moose, caribou, or deer. He seldom or never attacks a full-grown moose, but traces of desperate encounters, in which the cow-moose has battled for her offspring, are frequently met with in the woods.

Black bears visit the Adirondacks from the wooded districts about twenty miles to the westward during the autumn, crossing a fertile and well-cultivated valley. They are good climbers, but, from their weight, are unable to ascend to the tree-tops or climb far out on the branches, although they will ascend straight stems for a considerable height after honey. They are also excellent swimmers, many being killed while swimming in the lakes.

As a rule, the black bear hibernates, although its torpor is not deep, and the time of entering upon the winter repose depends upon the severity of the season, and the amount of food-supply. The males will remain active in any weather, so long as they can find abundance of food. The female is, however, compelled to seek shelter sooner on account of her prospective family.

The winter den of a black bear is generally a partial excavation under the upturned roots of a fallen tree, or beneath a pile of logs, with perhaps a few bushes and leaves scraped together by way of a bed, while to the first snowstorm is left the task of completing the roof and filling the remaining chinks. If the prospects point towards a severe winter, and there is a scarcity of food, they "den" early, and take pains to make a comfortable nest; but when they stay out late, and then "den" in a hurry, they do not take the trouble to fix up their nests at all. At such times they simply crawl into any convenient shelter without gathering so much as a branch of moss to soften their bed. Snow completes the covering, and as their breath condenses and freezes into it an icy wall begins to form, and increases in thickness and extent day by day till they are soon unable to escape, even if they would, and are obliged to remain in this icy cell till liberated by the sun in April or May.

The young are born about January or February, and are usually two or three in number, although four have been found in a litter. The female does not give birth to young oftener than every alternate year.

Sometimes the black bear is hunted with dogs trained for the purpose. The clogs are not taught to seize the bear but to nip his heels, yelp around him, and retard his progress, until the hunters come up and despatch him with their rifles. Common yelping curs possessed of the requisite pluck are best adapted for the purpose. Large dogs with sufficient courage to seize a bear would have but a small chance with him, for he could disable them with one blow of his powerful paw. Another way of hunting is to track Bruin to his winter den, and either smoke or dig him out, when he may be despatched by a blow on the head with the pole of an axe as he struggles out. Various kinds of traps, set-guns, and dead-falls are also employed against him.

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