We all ran out onto the smaller balcony and looked out. A young black bear was gazing at us, puzzled. Mom was leaning out the bedroom window taking photos with her new camera, and I was taking some pictures as well.
He was young. The year before we had discovered him, just an overgrown cub, at the fork in the unpaved road where our steep driveway met the neighbor's. Now he was bigger, we noticed, as he crossed the "animal highway." This was where deer and coyotes, but never before a black bear, made their crossing behind our house.
He loped off the other way and disappeared into a myriad of bushes and berries. He was gone.
Black bears are smaller than grizzly bears and do not have as defined a shoulder hump as their relatives. Grizzly bears' humps are shoulder muscles useful for digging up roots. Grizzly claws, partly for the same reason, are larger than black bears' claws. Signs that a bear has been somewhere are digging sites, clawed trees, and tracks which have five toes and look heavy. (The main hand is a thin egg shape with a little triangle at the end.) A black bear is eighty-five percent vegetarian, and most of the carnivorous percentage consists of bees, ants, and yellow jackets.
There is such a thing as a Kermode or Spirit Bear. These are rare, white subspecies. Only one in ten are completely white, and some are tan with patches. It is very special to see a Kermode bear. They are not albino, however, and are white because of a recessive gene. Other subspecies include the Eastern black bear, the Florida black bear and the Newfoundland black bear. The Florida black bear deserves special attention because it is threatened. At first, the Fish and Wildlife Department declared it threatened except in areas where it was a game animal. This was a rather hypocritical statement, as a bear could be passing a hunting area, though it was born in a refuge. Probably the Fish and Wildlife Department realized that after the criticism that they got. The Florida black bear is listed as threatened wherever it occurs.
In the case that you meet a black bear on a trail, rangers advise you to put up your hands and raise a backpack (if you have one) above your head to frighten it off. Do not do this unnecessarily, like if you hear rustling in the bushes a ways off the trail. However, do talk or clap your hands in such cases. Finally, if a black bear attacks you, fight back.