American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) L=5-7'

Black bear, USFWS photo

Black Bear, USFWS photo, John and Karen Hollingsworth.

Newspapers in Cochise County often report bears being captured in towns or nearby recreation areas. These large powerful animals are still abundant in forested tracts--particularly in mountain areas like the Huachuca and Chiricahua mountains. Black bear, USFWS photo by Mike BenderBlack Bears (which can also be brown or cinnamon in color) live in the higher elevations of Carr Canyon, Huachuca Mountains, and Rustler Park recreation area in the Chiricahua mountains.

Although Black Bears are generally shy and try to avoid people, they will invade campers' food stores, especially if tempting snacks and garbage are left in the open. The campground at the Chiricahua National Monument has metal food-safes for campers to use as well as special bear-proof trash disposal units. Bears are very intelligent and quickly learn how to open ordinary ice chests and flimsy foam coolers. (Photo by Mike Bender, USFWS.)

A Black Bear generally finds its food by scent, relying on its nose more than its ears and eyes to locate food and avoid danger. Bears are omnivorous; they eat berries, apples, honey, pinyon nuts, beechnuts, and wild cherries. Though largely vegetarian, they will eat meat including fish and small animals, and even carrion, if it is available. They love honey just as much as Winnie the Pooh does, but it's important to remember that these are wild animals and not cuddly toys. Dozens of minor injuries, some requiring stitches, have occurred when people petted or crowded black bears they were feeding or photographing. Under those circumstances, black bears may react by nipping or cuffing with little or no warning. People who tease bears with food have been accidentally injured when the bear quickly tried to take it.

Bear sketches by Bob Savannah, USFWSAccording to a brochure produced by the U.S. Forest Service, a person is about 180 times more likely to be killed by a bee than by a Black Bear and 160,000 times more likely to die in a traffic accident. This brochure also gives tips on how to keep your vacation food supply out of the reach of bears and what to do if a bear visits your campsite. Black Bears tend not to be aggressive and will generally avoid people if they have an escape route. "Each year there are many thousands of encounters between black bears and people, often unknown to the people because the bears slip away so quietly." from How to Live with Black Bears, Text and photos by Lynn L. Rogers, North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service.

Bear sketches by Bob Savannah, USFWS