Senses & Abilities
Vision: Bears see in color and have sharp vision close-up. Their distance vision (over two hundred yards) has not been tested.
Hearing: Hearing is the black bear’s first line of defense against danger because they can hear in all directions (unlike smell) and they can hear farther than they can see in brushy forest. Their ears develop to full size more quickly than the rest of their body. Their hearing is over twice the sensitivity of human hearing and exceeds human frequency ranges.
Smelling: Their smelling ability is extremely good. The limits are untested. Their nasal mucosa area is about 100 times larger than in humans.
Intelligence: Large brain compared to body size. One of the more intelligent mammals. Navigation ability superior to humans. Excellent long-term memory. Can generalize to the simple concept level.
Vocalizations: Usually silent (except in movies in which sounds are dubbed in). A variety of grunts in amiable situations. Loud blowing noises when frightened. Clack teeth when frightened. They use a resonant, humanlike “voice” to express a range of emotions from pleasure to fear. Does not threaten by growling (except in movies). In story-telling, any sound a bear makes is called a growl. Click here to learn more about black bear vocalizations.
Swimming Ability: Good. Speed and distance limits are untested. Can swim at least a mile and a half in fresh water. One swam more than 9 miles in the Gulf of Mexico. Can swim to island campsites.
Running Speed: Lean bears can exceed 30 mph. Can run uphill, downhill, or on level ground. Fat bears in winter coats overheat and tire quickly.