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There's a decent chance you will see one of these gorgeous mammals during a visit to the island.
Interested in photographing or getting up close with these amazing mammals? The best way to accomplish this is to take a bear watching tour during your time on Vancouver Island. These trips are usually by boat and last about two hours. During this time you will safely get up close and intimate with these incredibly fascinating animals.
There's a misconception that the American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a rare or endangered species. While this may be true throughout much of North America, the population of black bears in British Columbia has actually been increasing over the recent past.
Many scientists place the black bears living on Vancouver Island in a separate sub species than (Ursus americanus vancouveri). Apparently these island residents have been isolated from their mainland counterparts for about 10,000 years, which has allowed them to become somewhat genetically distinct. Their appearance is different from other British Columbia black bears too: their pelts are a bit darker, and they tend to be a bit larger in size.
Most people think that black bears spend the winter hibernating, but this isn't technically true. Scientists call the black bear's winter resting time a state of torpor. This state is similar to hibernation, but instead of being completely sedated, the animal will wake if it senses danger or urgency. Some black bears on Vancouver Island may not rest at all during the winter months, depending on how cold their surrounding environment is and how available food may be. And some bears may choose to go into a state of torpor for only a short period of time, resting during a particularly bleak stretch of weather or when food availability is extremely low.
A male black bear can reach 275 kg -- that's over 600 pounds! -- and are roughly five feet long when fully grown. Female's are a bit smaller. Their fur color varies from black to brown to cinnamon or blond. There is often a white patch at the throat. The claws are short and well-adapted for climbing. They prefer bushy areas but they inhabit almost every type of terrain, from coastal beaches to forests, dry grassland and subalpine meadows. Since grizzly bears are not fully established on Vancouver Island, you need not worry much about confrontations with them.
These animals are voracious eaters, and their diet changes with the seasons. In the spring, bears will eat fresh plant shoots and nutritious roots.. In the summer and autumn months, berries are a staple. In the winter, black bears turn into true scavengers, finding whatever food source they can: roots, grasses, grubs and insects.
Vancouver Island black bears take advantage of their coastal surroundings. If there are salmon migrating up a stream or a river, they will wait patiently at the water's edge or perched on a boulder in the middle of the current, 'fishing' with their paws swiping at the fish as they pass by. Coastal black bears also forage along the seashore, preferring the low tide when they can flip rocks over and scavenge the small tide-pool crabs as they try to scurry away.
Venturing into the wilderness means being aware of the risks, particularly when it comes to safety if you encounter a wild animal.
Vancouver Island is home to black bears and cougars, and while conflict between these animals and humans cannot always be avoided, a healthy respect for their wildness is key to reducing dangerous encounters.
Black bears normally avoid humans, and you may not see either while in the wilderness. They, however, may be well aware that you are in their territory.
British Columbia's Ministry of the Environment suggests you follow these tips when out in the wilderness:
If you meet a bear, it will most likely run away. But bears can be unpredictable. Learn to recognize the signs of a bear attack and above all don't panic.
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