Adaptations for Obtaining Food

  • A keen sense of smell
  • Strong curved claws for climbing trees and ripping logs
  • Strength for turning over rocks and logs to get colonial insects and strength for bending branches to reach buds, catkins, leaves, and fruit
  • A vomeronasal organ in the roof of the mouth for enhancing taste and smell
  • A long, sticky, agile tongue for reaching into ant colonies and separating preferred and less preferred foods. For example, a black bear can ingest a mouthful of mixed nuts, distinguish less preferred varieties and drop them out the side of the mouth.
  • Color vision to aid in finding berries
  • A tapetum lucidum to aid night vision. The tapetum is the membrane behind the retina that gives them their eye shine. It reflects light back over the retina for extra bright images in low light.
  • Sensitive, mobile lips for picking berries
  • Canine teeth for ripping open logs, capturing young prey, and pulling apart carrion
  • Incisors for nipping young green plants and grass
  • Broad, flat molars and premolars for crushing acorns, nuts, and vegetation
  • Reduced 1st, 2nd, and 3rd premolars, creating a diastema (space) for stripping leaves off branches that are pulled sideways through the mouth
  • A 2-part stomach that includes an expandable fundic region to hold large volume and a muscular gizzard-like pyloric region for grinding the pulp off small fruits. This enables black bears to quickly ingest berries without chewing and rely on their stomach to mash them up.
  • A long memory of places that provided food
  • The ability to form a mental map of how to get to distant feeding areas and return home
  • Detailed close-up vision to coordinate the use of a single claw for delicate tasks
Help support the North American Bear Center

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit that relies entirely on the support of visitors, merchandise sales and people like you. We do not receive any state or federal funding.

Help support our mission.

Donate Now