Seabeck, WA Giant Black Bear

This is from Seabeck, Washington, across the water from Seattle.


Ursus americanus is one of those species with a LOT of variation in adult body size. Males can run from 46 to 409 kg (100 – 900 lbs) [ADW], with the average around 100 – 120 kilos. Record size black bears include:

  • North Carolina, shot, November 1998, 880 lbs (399 kg)
  • Winnipeg, road kill, 2001, 856.5 lbs but estimated to have been 886 (402 kg) in life.

[source: American Bear Association]

Keep in mind that this was a black bear, not a brown bear. There are three kinds of bear in North America: Brown bear (also known as Grizzly or Kodiak), Polar bear, and black bear. Polar bears are phylogeneticaly a subset of brown bears but are clearly a different species (and are thus a great example of why many cladists just don’t quite get it).

Black bears are generally not too aggressive and usually eat fungus, plants, insects, and garbage. In areas where there are only black bears, it is common for people to get confused about how many different kinds of bears there are, because “black” bears can be white, grey, black, brown, bluish black, and so on. In areas where brown bears are found, people know the difference because this knowledge is a matter of survival owing to the fact that humans are potentially on the menu for brown bears.

Comments

  1. #1 Virgil Samms
    November 6, 2008

    402 kg of “road kill”? I wonder what the car looked like.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 6, 2008

    The car, a Mazda was fine, as was the driver. Which I find hard to believe, that that is what they say. Maybe it hit the bear just right. Or wrong.

  3. #3 Virgil Samms
    November 6, 2008

    There are no Bigfoot on the Kitsap peninsula.

  4. #4 Andrew
    November 6, 2008

    Maybe they’ll find one inside this bear.

  5. #5 travc
    November 6, 2008

    Bears shouldn’t really be hunted as a typical ‘game’ animal IMO, but taking a few adult black bears (so long as it is sanely restricted) isn’t a problem. I was very happy to see the fridge :)

    BTW: In some social species, taking large adults (typically males) can actually be very bad. Dominance fights and such can get pretty bad, but even worse, in some species a new alpha male will kill the pups of the previous alpha. This is true of a lot of species where males are typically considered ok to hunt since only a few actually breed… a pretty significant failure of basing policy on oversimplified models.

  6. #6 Romeo Vitelli
    November 6, 2008

    All bears look black in the dark…

  7. #7 the real Obamanator
    November 6, 2008

    That sounded vaguely speciesist.

  8. #8 (((Billy))) The Atheist
    November 6, 2008

    In Northeast Pennsylvania, we have had some 800 pound black bears. They find themselves a nice cornfield and spend the whole summer pigging out on corn-on-the-cob. The hunters are happy. Corn-fed beef is good, but corn-fed bear is better.

    That is an impressive bear. They seem to be adapting well to the urban interface zone.

    I was at a forest fire in Idaho (working as a level 2 security specialist) when we got a report of a large grizzly going through the trash at a spike camp (in a large fire, temporary camps can be set up on the other side of the fire to reduce ‘commuting’time). The crews spiked out were US Marines and apparently one or two of them were ‘city boys’ and didn’t know a whole lot about bears. We contacted the local forest service office and borrowed a bear trap. We took the trap up to the spike camp. We looked around and didn’t see any tracks or scat. The trap sprung before we left and, sitting in the cage, was a yearling black bear cub. We looked for momma, but no dice. He got relocated and the two city boy marines may have lived it down by now.

  9. #9 greg laden
    November 6, 2008

    Yes, Pennsylvania is famous for having the largest black bears, though I’m not entirely sure why.

  10. #10 (((Billy))) The Atheist
    November 6, 2008

    PA has a great deal of farm land mixed in with the black bear habitat. The work to calorie ratio of field corn is very, very low (little work, lots of corn). This would tend to create large bears. That’s my hypotheosis. If anyone out there wants to fund me, I could probably either prove it or disprove it. Or it may be inconclusive, in which case I would need more money for a broader study.

  11. #11 greg laden
    November 6, 2008

    Gotta start with the basics: What climate zone are they in? (Northerly / cooler climates = larger mammal). Second, is there a culling effect … are there fewer bears per equivalent territorial unit, allowing them to grow bigger (intraspecific competition). Third, is there interspeicfic C.E. defining body size niches? For instance, are there boar in these Pennsylvania habitats? Are brown bears in other habitats repressing black bear size?

    The food part of this is definately potentially important as you point out, but I think there is a lot of food her ein Minnesota too .. .and we have a large NUMBER of bears, but they are not particularly big. Numerous, multicolored, everywhere. But they are not big.

  12. #12 Stephen Moore
    November 6, 2008

    4009kg? At four tonne, that’s one bloody big bear! Methinks there is a 0 one too many in there. :^D