Black bears can be found throughout most of North America, and you’re much more likely to encounter a black bear than a Grizzly. If you happen to be in bear country it’s important to take the proper precautions. That means learning how to properly store food to avoid attracting bears, what to do if you encounter one, and most importantly, learning when you’re most likely to encounter bears. That means learning when bears are most active, and trying to avoid those times. Unless of course you are trying to catch a glimpse of one from afar, in which case you may be wondering, when are Black Bears most active?
When are black bears most active?
Black bear activity peaks in the early morning and late evening, mainly in the summer and spring. They tend to avoid the heat of the day and aren’t especially nocturnal, and they aren’t big fans of cold winter weather either.
What do black bears do during the day?
Black bears do most of their foraging and feeding at dawn and dusk. That doesn’t mean that they won’t eat during the rest of the day, but it’s usually not their top priority. They’ll spend a good chunk of the day resting.
During the hottest part of the day, black bears will almost always find a shady spot to nap in. That means that around midday and through the early afternoon black bears will typically retreat to thickly vegetated areas, and you’re unlikely to encounter them.
In warm weather they really enjoy playing in the water, and black bears are excellent swimmers. In addition to resting and playing, they also need to maintain their territory- especially adult males. That involves marking it so other bears will know it’s occupied.
Black bears will mark their territory by marking the trees. They stand on their hind legs and use their claws and sometimes their teeth to making long scratches in the tree bark. This serves both as a warning to other adult males, and an invitation to females ready to breed.
During the breeding season, males will spend much of the day traveling in search of females. A male’s territory can cover 122 square miles, while a female’s territory may be only 12 square miles. That means each male has to cover a lot of territory during the breeding season.
When do black bears sleep each day?
As you can see, black bears are more active than many people realize. They spend much of their day foraging, walking, climbing, swimming, and more. So when, exactly, do they sleep?
Bears go to sleep an hour or two after sunset, and wake up half an hour before sunrise. They’ll also nap once or twice during the day. So, they’ll sleep for most of the night, although they’re certainly early risers. They typically nap during the hottest part of the day, which us usually around midday through the early afternoon.
Do black bears come out at night?
Black bears typically continue to forage for food for an hour or two after sunset, but after that they like to find a comfortable spot to sleep for the rest of the night. So, they will come out a night, but they do so fairly early. They also wake up about half an hour before sunrise rather than sleeping until daylight.
However, there are situations in which black bears are more likely to be active all night. In areas where there are both black bears and grizzly bears, black bears tend to be highly nocturnal. Grizzlies are aggressive, and they’re much bigger and stronger than black bears. Being active at night helps black bears avoid dangerous encounters with other bears.
Black bears also tend to be more nocturnal when they live close to people. Again this is a survival strategy, since it helps them avoid potentially dangerous encounters. Black bears living near urban areas take advantage of the night to sneak in and raid our trash, which is often full of food scraps.
When do black bears hibernate?
Bears are famous for hibernating during the winter, especially because of their habit of gorging themselves during the summer and fall to build up enough fat stores to survive hibernation. Bears hibernate during the winter because there’s not as much food available for them. Rather than spending the winter foraging for scarce food, they eat as much as they can when food is plentiful and live off their body fat when it isn’t.
How long do black bears hibernate?
Black bears usually enter their dens sometime between early November and mid December. Once they’re in, they’ll hibernate for around 100 days, or slightly over three months. Bears are unique, though, in that they aren’t “deep” hibernators. Other species that hibernate will enter a much deeper state of hibernation.
Other hibernating animals will drop their body temperature and heart rate to remarkably low temperatures- a hibernating woodchuck typically has a body temperature of 40 degrees, for example. A hibernating black bear will only drop it’s body temperature to about 88 degrees, while it’s normal body temperature is 100 degrees.
This milder change in body temperature means that bears can come out of their state of hibernation more quickly, which allows them to respond to potential danger better. Their heart rate will still drop quite a bit though- when active, their hearts beat 40-50 times per minute, but in hibernation it drops to 8 beats per minute.
While they’re hibernating, bears don’t eat, drink, defecate or urinate. Their body is actually capable of breaking down waste products and using them to maintain their muscle mass so they don’t emerge from hibernation with a significant loss of strength. While they maintain muscle mass and organ function, they use their body fat stores to sustain themselves and can loss 30% of their body weight during hibernation.
Female bears give birth to their cubs during hibernation, and will nurse them during hibernation as well. That means that, in addition to building enough body fat to sustain themselves, they also need to put on enough fat to feed their cubs for the winter, too.