Last year, on hikes, I saw bears fairly regularly, particularly through the warm season: late Spring through late Summer. Most of my bear sightings were of the same bear family: a momma bear, whom I named Betty, and her two cubs, Beatrice and Barney. Last year I saw, in a lovely region I call the Shire, a young adult female who came within fifteen yards of me before noticing me and scrambling away into the brush as though her butt were on fire. I named her Bonnie.
Well, this year, I hadn’t had a single bear sighting, and since October is nearly over, I’d pretty much given up on seeing a bear until next year. But today, hiking up to the Shire, I caught a glimpse of movement off to my left and got the impression of a big black creature moving in the brush. Bear!, I thought, and I was right. And not just one bear, either: three bears. I saw a momma bear and her cubs, and I’d be willing to bet that the momma was Bonnie, the same young adult female I’d seen last year.
Because the bears were some distance away (seventy yards or so), I had to use my zoom lens to get pictures. By the time I had my camera out, Bonnie and her cubs (I named them Ben and Barbara) were already ambling off, but I managed to get one decent picture, albeit somewhat blurry:
Bonnie’s Got Butt! Because of all the rain we’ve had in East TN this year, the bears in our mountains have had plenty to eat. Black bears are mostly vegetarians (they eat berries, roots, buds, young plants), but they also eat insects and larvae, and sometimes small mammals when they’re easy to catch.
And lest anybody wonder: no, I’m not afraid of black bears when I hike in the woods. Sure, I use common sense — I’m aware of my surroundings, and I keep a respectful distance from the bears when I spot them. But my experience with wild black bears has shown me that they are much more afraid of us humans than we are of them.
Black bears are fascinating, magnificent creatures, and seeing one in the woods never fails to make my day.
Here’s a great site with a wealth of information on black bears, truth vs. fiction: North American Bear Center.