California Black Bears

Today there are about 250 California Black Bears living in the San Bernardino National Forest. They are not, however, native to the mountains. They were brought to the Big Bear area in 1934 from Yosemite National Park as a tourist attraction.
California Black Bears, which can actually be honey brown, cinnamon brown, or black, are one of sixteen different subspecies of North American Black Bears. The subspecies is found from southern Oregon to the coastal mountains of southern California. In California, they are found in both the coastal and Sierra mountain ranges. Black bears are not native to the coastal range, but since the extinction of the Grizzly Bear in California, the black bears have been expanding their range west.
Males are about 30 to 40 percent heavier than females. Their maximum weight is around 550 pounds, with most bears around 200 to 425 pounds. Shoulder height is around 3-4 feet and 4-6 feet in length. Standing bears can be as tall as 7 feet.
Black bears are attracted to areas with dense forest cover that is able to provide them with food. High elevation forests and chaparral are prime bear habitats in California. They generally are found in elevation ranges from 3,000 to 7,000 feet.
The diet of a Black Bear consists of leaves, nuts, berries, fish, buds and insects. Their diet will vary from season to season. Though they are carnivores, black bears get the bulk of their diet from plant or insect sources.
Breeding season is from June to July, and the gestation period is around 235 days. Cubs are weaned by the time they are 18 months old. After their cubs have weaned, females may mate again. Cubs will reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age, but continue to grow until they are 5 years old. Average life span is 18 years.
Like other members of the order Carnivora, black bears don’t hibernate in the true sense of the word, engaging instead in a winter lethargy. During this time, they decrease their body temperatures a few degrees and have endocrine changes to facilitate their bodies for a torpor state. They remain fairly active and can wake up quickly. An animal in true hibernation would take several hours to get its body back to the right temperature for normal movement.

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