How Do Black Bears Respond to Thunder and Lightning?

Black bears often climb trees during thunderstorms.

Around Ely, mothers with cubs often bed beneath big white pines at night and climb them for “safety” in thunderstorms. Although these trees are prone to lightning strikes, black bear deaths from lightning are uncommon. None of the 100+ radio-collared black bears studied around Ely since 1969 died that way.

Thunder can startle black bears, but the bears learn they need not run from these loud bangs. This might help explain why black bears often ignore gunshots.

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