A central character in Aboriginal mythology, the black bear is regarded with fascination. This solitary and reserved animal tends to avoid human contact. Black bears have a preference for small fruits like raspberries and blueberries, any plants growing in the forest and insect larvae found in unhealthy trees or stumps. They are mad about honey, which they happily steal with impunity from the bees! Occasional visitors of campgrounds and dumps, these omnivores will eat just about anything in their path.
In Québec, where sport hunting is permitted, the black bear population numbers over 70,000 and is subject to both a spring and fall hunt. These exceptional hunts take place on territories that have been carefully prepared by outfitters who lay bear bait. Depending on the territory, certain specific rules apply to non-residents.
For their part, hunters spot bears from towers solidly attached to trees and monitor the bear’s approach as it moves through the forest unaware of the hunter’s presence. This technique minimizes the chances of the bear—whose senses are honed to detect odour and movement—of spotting the hunter. Clearly, bear hunting is about lying in wait unless you have a rare chance encounter.
Adult males, stocky and massive, weigh about 80 kg (175 lb.), although they’ve been known to weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb.). The female is much smaller and on average weighs no more than 60 kg (130 lb.). Scratch marks indicating their presence are sometimes visible on tree bark. Superb runners, climbers and swimmers, black bears are hibernators, meaning their metabolic processes slow in winter, and they spend the season in a den that they carefully chose in the fall. This allows them to avoid the fight for survival that most mammals face in winter. Black bear meat must be well cooked to prevent any risk of contamination by the parasite responsible for trichinosis, a disease transmissible to humans.