The only bears in Oregon are the smallest bears on the Continent – the black bear. They are normally black with a brown muzzle but they can be a variety of light to dark brown hues and even white. They run 5 to 6 feet in length and up to 30 inches at the shoulder. Females can be 125 to 200 pounds and males 200 to 250 pounds. They don’t mate until they are 3 to 4 years old.
Black bears are usually gentle and can be scared away quickly by loud noises and yelling. And I do mean quickly. When they are spooked they take off like a rocket streak for the nearest forest shelter. They are not normally aggressive but the male bears can become so with each other during June and July mating season. Also a mother bear when she feels her cub needs protecting can be very aggressive. Do not come between a mama bear and her cub. There has never been a single documented human death caused by a black bear in Oregon. They just don’t want to be around us.
Black bears live in forested areas that are not inhabited by humans. They can occasionally be seen crossing highways between forests or to reach water. If you live near the forest you may see one on occasion just passing through. It is best to stay inside and enjoy the view until the bear has wandered back into the forest. That way the bear won’t be spooked and run in the wrong direction. They are just passing through.
Usually. Unfortunately this year is unusual due to the drought. All of the Western US is starting to recover from the long hot summer. Here in Oregon the rains have begun and are predicted to stick with us. We welcome them. However, our gentle bears are trying to store up for the coming winter hibernation. Due to the drought their normal food supply of nuts, grass, insects and berries – they love Oregon blackberries – is not there in the usual quantities.
Due to the low food supply, black bears are coming out of the forest looking for food and finding garbage cans. This is not good. Bears can become habituated to an easy food supply if they find one but this year is different. They are just hungry. You can help by keeping trash and garbage cans locked up tight in bear-proof containers or put away where a bear cannot get to them.
We love our bears in Oregon and enjoy watching them cross the road or meander up rural driveways on their way back home to the forest on the rare occasion that those sightings happen. We want them to survive. If you live in Oregon, please assist the bears to pass on by.