I’m telling you!

Did you know black bears have a vast array of vocalizations to share their emotions? They range from a deep low growl for fighting and attacking to a “woof” when warning others. When these large bears get angry they will snap their teeth loudly, yet whimper when communicating with their cubs. The most human sound of all is when afraid or hurt, black bears bawl.

Humans often misinterpret bear communication, not realizing they have a complex system of sounds. The more you learn about bear behavior and methods of communication, the more you can understand these intelligent animals. Black bears behavior can be predictable.

Black bear body language can tell you a lot. If a bear looks away or yawns, it is showing disinterest. If a bear sits down, it’s showing respect. Catch a black bear standing motionless, or grazing, and he’s telling you he wants to be left alone. Slapping the ground or lunging toward you is an indicator that the bear is nervous. Though the attitude may not seem too aggressive, the black bear still needs you to understand that he prefers you to not approach.

More complicated forms of communication include mouth and head movements. As the black bear feels more challenged he’ll let you know by circling his head high, then dropping it down again to begin a series of short open-mouthed lunges. Bears also use their ears to communicate, and the ears are indicators as to how the bear is feeling. Once black bears have reached their threshold of patience, they will throw down some bluff charges. The black bear gives lots of warnings and cues to intimidate an opponent before resorting to these defensive behaviors.

When encountering a bear it’s best to back away and give the animal space. It’s rare to see a bear reach a pounce, but all black bear cues need to be taken very seriously. Respect wildlife and give animals plenty of space and an exit route.

Lisa Wooden

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