North America is home to three apex species of the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore. That’s right, as outdoorsmen, let’s talk about what keeps me up at night… Bears. I have trekked from New Mexico up through northern Ontario and I don’t remember many nights I didn’t hang a bear bag or make sure my tent was upwind of my kitchen. These guys are fierce and so I thought I would give you just a brief background on the three we see in the US and Canada.
The American Black Bear (Ursus Americanus) is the most prolific in North America. Chances are if there is a bear in your camp, this is the guy (or cow). Unless you’re in Prince Edward Island or 10 US states, the rest of the US and Canada has them. They are black, but they can vary in color from dark black, to light brown and even white at times. They continue to expand their swath of land taking over areas where Grizzly Bears once laid claim, now numbering approximately 900,000 and are “Secure” as a species, although some subspecies, such as the Louisiana black bear, are protected as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In Ohio where I am from, there is still a tight window of hunting season for them, but truly they are almost non-existent in the state anymore except near the PA boarder. Check your state or province for any specifics on bow or gun season.
Grizzly Bears (Ursa Arctos) are much fewer in number than the brown bear and are relegated really to the Northern Rocky Mountain Range starting with the northern US states that boarder Canada through the arctic circle. Also known as the American Brown Bear, they are much larger in size than their cousins the black bear. Grizzly’s include the sub-species of Kodiak Bears (Ursus arctos middendorffi) which are found only in the remote islands of Alaska and have remained unchanged since the last Ice Age. They are giants in the brown bear world the largest weighing in at around 1,500 pounds compared to the the 500-800 Grizzly.
The Polar Bear (Ursa maritimus) retains more of its original habitat than any other remaining large carnivore. Approximately 25,000 polar bears live in the northern regions of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Norway and Greenland. It is classified as the largest hyper-carnivorous mammal as it feed almost exclusively off the seal population. Hunting from the edge of ice flows in the Arctic, its scientific name maritimus is latin for ‘maritime’ hinting at the fact you’re not likely to see this guy unless you like swimming in Arctic temperatures.
Needless to say, as a outdoorsman in the United States, chances are the guy stealing your dinner is the North American Black Bear.