male black bear

Male black bear checking out my deer feeder

Apparently, I am not the only one who loves blackberries! Mr. Papa Bear is back this year—I have caught him on camera at a couple of locations near where I hunt. I have also noted the abundant blackberry bushes when driving the dirt roads at our hunt club. This has been an arid spring, but the hot summer days produce rapid and frequent afternoon thunderstorms. The long-needed rain is just what is needed to ripen the berries to their beautiful black luster.

wild blackberries wild blackberries

Yes, blackberries are among the favorite summer foods of our black bears here in the South, and through some research, I’ve learned that bears can consume up to 30 pounds of berries in a single day. Black bears are right at home in these prickly bushes and pull the ripened fruit into their mouths with their tongues, swallowing the berries without chewing them. With their thick fur, the bears don’t mind foraging in the brambles for these sweet berries. Besides berries, they crave green grass, corn, and nuts. Bears are omnivorous, so they also get their protein from eating small mammals, grubs, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

Black bear with piglet

This photo was found on FB – Bear with wild pig

male black bear

Male black bear at my stand

Standing well over 6½ feet, this bear is mighty impressive. I decided it would be good to dig deeper into bear behavior, just in case I were to come face to face with Mr. Papa Bear when walking to my stands. I know perfectly well that he is not interested in meeting up with me either. Mrs. Mama Bear also showed up and helped herself to deer corn and protein mix from one of my feeders.

Female black bear

female bear

Female eating corn from my deer feeder

Conversations about bears may stir up many emotions, depending on whom you are talking to. For example, if you speak to one of my daughters, undoubtedly they will think about the immense stuffed teddy bear collections they had as children, and the ones they can’t give away. For other people, any bear is terrifying and dangerous. Hunters will be quick to tell you that bears are very destructive and tear up the deer feeders and ruin their deer hunting season, just by their very presence.

Because I love learning as much as possible about all animals, I decided to dive in and research the subject of bears. Here are some interesting facts:

If you thought black bears are always black, you are wrong—“black bear” is the common name for the species Ursus americanus, but this does not necessarily describe the creature’s color. Depending on their habitat, “black” bears come in many colors, including blonde, white, cinnamon, and more.

Black bears have very long lifespans—the oldest documented was 39 years, with an average lifespan of 20 years.

Black bears come in many sizes, but the largest recorded was 880 pounds, and lived in North Carolina. The largest black bear recorded here in South Carolina was 594 pounds!

Do not run if you see a bear! Black bears are surprisingly quick and nimble. They can sprint at up to 35 miles an hour and climb 100 feet up a tree within 30 seconds.

If you come upon an aggressive bear, what is your best strategy? The standard advice is to stand your ground and make yourself appear larger. Bears often make false charges, but most of the time, they will break the charge and run away. Stand your ground until the bear leaves and then calmly walk away.

When are bears most aggressive? Sows (females) will become aggressive if they think their cubs are in danger, and boars (males) are dangerous if you get between them and a sow during mating season. June and August are breeding months in the South, with cubs being born seven months later, around late January to early February.

If you are wondering how to distinguish between a sow and a boar, here are a couple of quick notes: Females (sows) have pear-shaped bodies and quite big backends. Their heads are tapered, and their necks are longer. Sows are smaller in stature than boars and typically weigh around 250 pounds, Boars are bigger, weighing in around 400 pounds and have stocky necks that blend in with their shoulders. They also appear to have sagging bellies, and might show signs of fighting with scars on their ears.

Bears do not mate for life—instead, they get together during mating season and then go their separate ways: Yes, Goldilocks and the Three Bears was just a fairy tale!

I am keenly aware of my surroundings in the woods. I don’t fear encountering a bear, but I do have a lot of respect and am always prepared. If you are interested in learning more about Southern black bears, visit:

https://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/species/bear.html

https://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/bear/bearbrochureAcc.pdf