It’s a ‘beary’ good day to celebrate National Black Bear Day on June 1 this year, which has been observed each year on the first Saturday in June for the sole pur-‘paws’ of teaching people about black bears and dispelling the myths surrounding them. This was the last pun, we promise. Just bear with us.
History of National Black Bear Day
Bears inhabited practically every continent when humans first made their way to North America. The grizzlies actually thrived in all western states, from Mexico to the tip of Alaska. The smaller black bear, a relative to the grizzly, was living in places as far-ranging as the Atlantic and the Pacific in North America, and Mexico to the northern edge of the continent. Since the black bear was a valuable source of thick hides for clothing and shelter, rich meat, and sweet fat for the Native Americans, we can see why they valued it and passed on the stories of these bears through their oral folktales.
The European settlers brought with them their fear of the wild and the animals that lived in it. These bears posed a threat to life, livestock, and crops and so they began killing them. Their fear made its way into popular children’s books at the time, which showed bears attacking hunters alongside other predators preying on their cattle. As is common with a human presence, forest land was wiped out to make space for open farmland, and the bears began losing their homes. The more the population expanded, the more black bears were killed for safety, food, or other purposes. Because they reproduced much slower than other mammals, the black bear population began to dwindle.
However, restoration programs and recovery of forest land saw their numbers go up again, with some states like New Jersey and Maryland reporting a five-fold increase. While these bears have not been able to reclaim their entire territory across North America, there is still a good number of black bears in the wild. In fact, they are listed as the least endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to their large population. While the bear population is expanding, so is the human population, to the extent that the two are coexisting in many areas.
The North Carolina Black Bear Festival founded National Black Bear Day to celebrate America’s black bear while trying to raise awareness about this animal and dispel all the myths and fear surrounding it.
National Black Bear Day timeline
Humans enter North America for the first time — bears are all over the continent at this time.
While Norse colonies had already been established in North America, systematic European colonization begins in this year.
The number of black bears in the wild is reduced to the point of extinction due to an explosion of human populations and habitat loss across America.
People begin to recognize the importance of black bears — hunting seasons become heavily controlled or closed altogether and bear restoration programs begin in some states.
The black bear population increases 2% a year all over the continent due to reforestation, black bear reintroduction programs, and regulations on hunting black bears.
A mail survey done in New York State reveals a majority of residents enjoy having black bears in their state.
National Black Bear Day is officially ordained as a celebration to be observed annually.
National Black Bear Day FAQs
How many black bears were left in the world by 2020?
Around 800,000 black bears roam the American continent and are gradually returning to their old territory.
Which national park has the most black bears?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the southeastern part of the U.S. has the highest densities of black bears. Their population numbers approximately 1,500 black bears.
Which state has the most black bears?
Black bears are largely found in Alaskan forests, more than in any other U.S. state, which have an estimated population of 100,000 black bears or even more.
How To Celebrate National Black Bear Day
Learn more about the American black bear
National Black Bear Day is your chance to learn more about these magnificent animals and how you can coexist with them respectfully. Humans have a moral responsibility towards the conservation of nature and the animals that need it to survive. Learning more about this day, and the black bear, helps us realize what majestic creatures they are and how we only need to make a few minor adjustments to exist together.
Take a trip to see black bears
Live near a national park or animal preserve that has a black bear population? Make a field trip out of it and see these animals up close and personal — just not too close. If you can’t physically visit these animals, there are plenty of global reserves and many in America that provide animal cams to view these animals online at any time. Take a minute to observe these cuddly creatures in their natural habitat.
Learn about black bear attacks
Read up on what to do (and what not to do) in case of a black bear attack. For example, avoid feeding wild bears, don’t run or climb up trees if they chase you, and know that they usually always avoid humans unless they have no choice at all. They aren’t interested in eating humans — their food is 95% plant-based, although they do eat small animals like frogs and fish.
Fun Facts About National Black Bear Day
Bears, bears, everywhere!
The black bear can be found in 41 of the 50 U.S. states, at an estimated number of 800,000.
Black bears are not always black
They come in a range of colors, sometimes in the same litter, such as shades of cinnamon, blue/black, blue/grey, and, in rare instances, white.
They are ‘super hibernators’
In northern states, they can hibernate for up to eight months in the spring season but, in the southern regions, they hibernate for a shorter duration or not at all depending on food availability.
They can climb trees
These super dexterous animals are sometimes more comfortable on a tree than on the ground.
North Carolina has the largest black bears
According to black bear biologist Colleen Olfenbuttel, North Carolina’s coastal regions have the largest black bears on the planet, probably because they have access to high protein crops and enjoy mild winters.
Why We Love National Black Bear Day
We learn about nature’s gifts
A day dedicated to the black bear is an amazing way to build awareness about this animal, its history, and how our actions impact it. The more we learn, the more we can help to conserve this gift from nature so future generations can enjoy it too.
It dispels myths about black bears
If you see a black bear today, you shouldn’t scream and run for your life (they can outrun you easily), nor should you be ‘aww-ing’ and walking towards it. National Black Bear Day helps us understand the animals we share our nation with, and reduces our chances of causing damage to ourselves and the bears.
As you’ve read this article, you have probably learned more than you knew yesterday. That makes you more informed about bears than you previously were and, hopefully, wiser in terms of the ways in which to act around them. While this day works towards dispelling the scary myths about these animals, it also helps us avoid bear-related accidents by teaching us common rules to follow in the presence of a black bear.
National Black Bear Day dates