How Do Black Bears Protect Themselves?

The primary way black bears defend themselves is by avoiding danger. When they cannot avoid danger, their first response is to climb a tree. Black bears are remarkable climbers and the only bear species in North America that do so as adults, although their climbing ability declines with age.

The coats of black bears, which are not always black, also help protect the bears from predators, as the cryptic colors blend in with the habitat. If a bear has no viable escape option and must confront a predator, it often engages in mock charges. During such encounters, black bears may slap the ground, emit vocalizations or chomp their teeth in an attempt to drive off the perceived threat.

Adult black bears have an exceptionally low mortality rate because they have few natural predators. However, humans, grizzly bears and other members of their own species are all documented predators of adult black bears. Humans are the most important causes of adult black bear mortality, which occurs in the form of hunting and vehicular collisions. Young bears have even more predators due to their small size. Approximately one in five cubs dies in its first year, usually as a result of predation by hawks, foxes, bobcats or coyotes.