Print

How do black bears respond to mirrors?

mirror_1.jpgSelf awareness is a measure of intelligence. A captive chimpanzee reportedly sat in front of a mirror in a cage and eventually touched a dot on its forehead, showing that it realized the reflection was of itself.

Unlike caged chimps, wild bears see their reflections whenever they drink from quiet ponds; so mirrors don’t get much notice. In the top photo, a bear briefly noted his reflection as he passed by. In the bottom photo, the two bears paused to give the mirror a brief sniff. One looked behind it.

Print

How do black bears respond to menstrual odors?

menstrual_odors.jpgDespite a widespread misconception that menstrual odors attract black and grizzly bears and precipitate attacks, there is no evidence for this.

The misconception began in 1967 when grizzly bears killed a menstru-ating woman and a woman who was approaching menstruation in Glacier National Park. It was known that some dogs are attracted to menstrual odors, so government agencies began warning women not to enter bear country during menstruation.

How did people learn that this concern was unwarranted?

Print

How do black bears respond to bright sunlight?

bright_sunlight.jpgBlack bears with black fur avoid open sun. Black fur absorbs sunlight. Black pigs can absorb 90% more solar energy than white ones (Kelley et al. 1954). This might help explain why black-colored black bears in Montana fed for shorter periods in open meadows at midday than blonde or brown-colored black bears did (Jonkel, 1967).

Black bears also tend to avoid midday sun around Ely. Researchers had to fly four times longer and farther to see black bears at midday on sunny days than on overcast or light rainy days.

Print

How do black bears respond to thunder & lightning?

lightning.jpgBlack bears often climb trees during thunderstorms.

Around Ely, mothers with cubs often bed beneath big white pines at night and climb them for “safety” in thunderstorms. Although these trees are prone to lightning strikes, black bear deaths from lightning are uncommon. None of the 100+ radio-collared black bears studied around Ely since 1969 died that way.

Thunder can startle black bears, but the bears learn they need not run from these loud bangs. This might help explain why black bears often ignore gunshots.