Living With Us… Black Bear (Makwa)

There are three species of bears found in Canada, the Polar Bear in the Arctic region, the Grizzly Bear in the West and the smallest of the bunch, the Black Bear which can be found throughout most of Ontario in forested areas. Adult males weigh from 120 kg to 300 kg (250-650 lbs.) while adult females are smaller, weighing from 45 to 180 kg (100-400 lbs.) They pack on most of this weight during the summer months when they can forage for food for up to eight hours a day. Black bears are opportunistic omnivores; this means that they will eat just about anything. They favour a vegetarian diet of berries and nuts but will catch fish during spawning season or capture a fawn or moose calf if the opportunity arises.

Did you know…

Black bears can lose up to half their body weight during hibernation. Between October and November they look for a spot to bunker down for the winter months, typically under a large tree stump lined with grass, twigs and leaves. It is here the mother bear sleeps for the next few months; in January she gives birth to 1 or 2 cubs. She nurses her cubs while she continues to doze in and out of slumber until they emerge from the den in the spring, around April or May.

The changing climate and shifts in weather patterns are heavily affecting hibernation behavior. As summers become hotter and drier, plants and fish are less abundant in some areas which affects the bear’s diet. Shorter winters also mean that bears are waking up sooner than normal, when their preferred food is still scarce.