The American black bear is present in a good number of North American states and in all Canadian provinces. It prefers forests and mountains, where it finds nourishment and shelter. The black bear population probably numbered around two million adults.
Today, the species is protected and it is estimated that there are between 500,000 and 700,000 black bears across the continent. Smaller than the brown bear and the white bear, this animal has a more or less dark fur color depending on the region, ranging from black to white.
Contrary to popular belief, black bears are good swimmers and easily climb trees to escape danger. Long hunted for its fur, it is currently threatened by the reduction of the natural environment due to man. In California's Yosemite National Park, the black bear population is estimated to be between 300 and 500 individuals.
The rangers have counted about fifteen of them in the Yosemite valley, which is the sector most frequented by tourists. The black bear easily adapts to the presence of men and does not disdain their food. It can then penetrate campsites and parked vehicles in car parks.
Once upon a time, the bears were fed by men, but this practice resulted in attacks and numerous injuries. Today, numerous information boards and prevention messages advise against feeding wild animals, especially plantigrades.
The trash cans in the park have been reinforced and hermetically sealed; special boxes for storing food have been placed in the campsites. Accidents are down, but two or three aggressive bears must be culled each year in Yosemite.
In another American national park, Yellowstone, it was also customary to feed bears, and this practice was an important tourist attraction. Today, this habit has been abandoned in the park. Currently, 600 black bears live in Yellowstone.
In the eastern United States, there is a population of 400-600 black bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is in the course of poor years of beeches that the accidents with visitors have multiplied. In this region, the black bear faces competition from invasive species such as the European wild boar, which is a major acorn consumer.
Rangers drug the most dangerous male bears and relocate them to more remote areas. In New Hampshire, naturalist Ken Killian has opened a facility that takes in and cares for injured black bears or orphaned teddy bears. A similar experiment is being conducted in Minnesota, where 3,000 black bears live in the Superior National Forest.
Biological corridors and ecoducts have been installed to prevent the extinction of the Florida black bear. The American black bear is protected by law in many southern American states such as Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas.
Illegally killing a black bear is punishable by a large fine and prison sentence. The black bear was also hunted for the famous headgear of the British Guards and certain regiments of the Canadian and British Army. The use of bear fur for these headdresses, as well as the killing of animals in collisions with cars or by hunters, are criticized by animal welfare organizations such as PETA.
Models of faux fur headdresses were also made. Finally, the paws and bile of the bear are currently still highly sought after in Asia: a gram of bile, used in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, costs $155.