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Wonders of the Wild
A Celebration of Bears and Other Land Animals
The American black bear, also known as Urus Americanus, is the only beat to populate the lands of Vancouver Island. Home to over 7,000 American black bears, Vancouver Island is recognized as the most densely populated region of such bear in the world.
The American black bear is smaller than both the grizzly bear and polar bear. The average size for the black bear is 1.5-1.8m (5-6 ft) long and weighs 90-200kg (200-330 lb) or more. The black bear has been recorded to live up to 32 years in the wild.
Bears are incredibly resourceful, intelligent and powerful mammals, who, though classified as carnivores, eat a predominantly vegetable and insect diet. Most of their time is spent foraging for berries, plants, roots, nuts and honey. In the spring, following hibernation, black bears eat plenty of herbaceous plants and grasses including skunk cabbage. This is also the time of the year when the bear is most likely to prey on wild animals and domestic livestock because plant food is not in great abundance yet and the bear is hungry from the long winter fast. In the summer, the bear's staple diet is berries supplemented with meat. In the fall, coastal bears consume huge volumes of fish and play a key part in the coastal forest food web. Bears trying to put on enough fat reserves to make it through the winter's hibernation often eat only the parts of the fish with the highest fat content including the brains, eggs and skin. Fish remains are left for scavengers, and any uneaten portions then make significant nutrient contributions to the forest floor.
Safety and caution must be employed when viewing any wildlife life. Bears are extremely protective of their food cache, and females are aggressively protective of their young. Be aware of coming between a sow and her cub, or a bear and it's food cache. A confrontation is likely. Remember, black bears can easily climb trees because of their shorter curved claws that are razor sharp. They are also incredibly fast runners including on the uphill and downhill.
On the neighboring and remote coastal mainland of British Columbia grizzly bears are found in good numbers particularly in the Knight and Bute Inlet areas.
Prime viewing months are in the spring, following hibernation and again in the fall when the bears move to spawning rivers to intake the protein form the spawning salmon. They can also be seen during the summer in the alpine environment although one must know where to look.
In addition to bears, Vancouver Island is also home to Roosevelt elk; the world's largest which can be seen particularly during the winter in Strathcona Park and closer to Campbell River in the Snowden Demonstration Forest. Both cougars (also known as mountain lions) and gray wolves are present but rarely seen. Other animals include coastal black-tailed deer, raccoons, Vancouver Island marmots and mink.
Some bear facts:
- a bear can smell honey 5 miles away
- a bear will consume 30,000 to 50,000 calories per day in summer
- an average grizzly will gain 40 pounds a week at the peak of fall eating
- never carry food or wear perfume near bears