West Virginia State Mammal
American Black Bear (common name)
Ursus americanus (scientific name)
The black bear is the most common bear species native to North America. These bears are much smaller and less aggressive than brown bears, but they are still formidable, large, and bulky omnivores. They have manes of shaggy black hair, round ears, long snouts, large bodies, and short tails. Black bears have an excellent sense of smell that allows them to adeptly locate food. The black bear is one of the more popular choices for state animal, having been designated as such by Alabama in 2006, Louisiana in 1992, New Mexico in 1963, and West Virginia in 1973. Bears are an important part of many indigenous cultural and religious beliefs and thus accorded a great deal of respect. Indigenous peoples once used them for their fur, meat, and fat.
Official State Animal
ALSO KNOWN AS
North American black bear, black bear
Color: Typically black but can also be chocolate-brown, cinnamon-brown, or, west of the Mississippi, occasionally blonde.
Up to 36 years; average of 10 years in the wild
Typically lives in mountainous woodlands in protected parks and preserves, although they will roam into adjacent populated areas. While they prefer forested or shrubby areas they also live on ridge tops, tidal basins, burned forests, river valleys, cultivated fields, avalanche chutes, hardwood and conifer swamps, and dry sage and juniper habitats.
Range: Northern Alaska to northern Mexico and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, but absent from the Great Plains.
Conservation: Least Concern (LC). The Louisiana black bear subspecies was designated as threatened in 1992; recovery efforts included a 3.5 million-acre Louisiana Black Bear Habitat Restoration and Planning "corridor" of preserves and parks running from the Arkansas/Louisiana border to the Gulf of Mexico.
Black bears hibernate during the winter in hollowed-out trees, cavities under logs or rocks, in caves, or in culverts and other shallow depressions. They do not eat, drink, or leave the den during hibernation, although they remain somewhat alert. Females give birth and nurse their young toward the end of the hibernation period. Black bears can stand and walk on their hind legs and are powerful swimmers. Unlike brown bears, black bears rarely engage in violent confrontation and prefer to growl, charge, and take swipes at opponents. Black bears will compete with cougars, wolverines, and wolves over animal carcasses.
Top land speed recorded: 30 mph (48 kph)
Plants (skunk cabbage, horsetail), meat (representing 15 percent of its diet), fruit (apples, berries), honey, acorns, and insects (carpenter ants, yellow jackets, bees, wasps, termites, bee larvae). Meat is usually from small young animals like fawns and even moose calves, although it can include large fish (trout and salmon), alligator eggs, crayfish, and carrion. Bears will also forage at garbage dumps.
Breeding interval: Annual
Birthing period: January–February
Average litter size: 2–5 cubs
Size at birth: 10–14 oz (280–400 g)
Click to enlarge an image
Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Author: World Trade Press