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Bears: Top 10 Questions

March 2013

Thanks to Evin Oneale and Gregg Losinski, both Regional Conservation Educators with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for the answers.

1: Why do bears hibernate?

Bears hibernate because they have to. The food sources that are normally available in the summer generally aren't there in the winter, so rather than use the energy that they have remaining to find something, they basically shut down. Bears are not true hibernators. They drop their body temperature and metabolism, but they can start up if and when they need to. (From Abby at Kamiah Elementary School in Kamiah)

2: How tall can a grizzly bear get?

A big grizzly bear might be about five feet at the shoulder when it's on all fours. When it stands up, it might be around nine feet tall. Bears spend most of their time on all fours and a really, really big grizzly could be about six feet tall on all fours. (From Reid at Cynthia Mann Elementary School in Boise)

3: How fast can bears walk?

It depends on what they are walking to or from. They can have a normal pace, like a human, of a few miles per hour, or they can step up that pace and move much more quickly to the point where they can hit 35 miles per hour. It just depends on what they are trying to do. If they are just looking for food, they are going to move more slowly; and if they are trying to get somewhere or get something fast, they can move much more quickly. (From Kristia at Basin Elementary School in Idaho City)

4: What is the most common bear in Idaho?

Easily, the black bear is our most common bear. (From Jazmin at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

5: How long do bears live?

Bears in the wild generally live around 25 years. The grizzly bear lives a little less, usually around 20 years. All bears live a little longer if they live in a zoo. (From Vinnie at Basin Elementary School in Idaho City)

6: Do bears shed their fur?

When winter is coming, bears will put on weight, but their fur doesn't actually bulk up as much as it does with other animals that spend the winter out. So, when you see a bear in the spring, he's going to have a shaggy coat, but not a big winter coat. Bears do, however, slough the pads off their paws. They will lick their paws allowing the dead skin to fall off. (From Raquel at Kamiah Elementary School in Kamiah)

7: Why are female bears called sows?

Bears are actually related to pigs. Male bears are called boars and females are called sows, just like pigs. (From Isaac at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

8: Why do bears leave people alone when they are hiking in the woods?

Bears understand that humans can be trouble. When they know a person is around, they will try to get away from that area. The problem occurs when people surprise bears or they aren't aware that the people are in the area. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes a close encounter. Generally, bears don't want trouble, and they know that people could mean trouble, so they try to avoid us. That's why it's important to make plenty of noise so the bears will know you are there and will move on. (From Rebecca at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

9: How much do bears eat each day?

It depends on what's available. Bears are consumed with consuming. If there is something that is edible, bears will eat it until it is gone. They aren't picky and eat a lot of different things. If there is only a little available, they will eat it. If they have a chance to eat a whole carcass of an animal, they will do so. They will eat whatever is available. (From Millie at Basin Elementary School in Idaho City)

10: Why are some bears more aggressive than others?

Black bears and grizzly bears came about from different locations. Grizzly bears are more of an open plains animal. They are not really a forest dwelling animal, though they do live in forests. They have a different attitude about life. Their best defense is a good offense, so they tend to be more aggressive toward humans and other animals than black bears. Black bears spend most of their time in the forest, and the forest is a great place to retreat to. Black bears tend to be less aggressive than grizzly bears and the black bears' best defense is good defense. If they feel threatened, they will run in the woods and climb a tree. Grizzly bears don't have that option as they are not great tree climbers so they are more aggressive and are more apt to charge. (From Junior at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)


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