Bear hunting

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Hunter with a bear's head strapped to his back on the Kodiak Archipelago Bear hunting Kodiak FWS.jpg
Hunter with a bear's head strapped to his back on the Kodiak Archipelago

Bear hunting is the act of hunting bears. Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. In addition to being a source of food, in modern times they have been favoured by big game hunters due to their size and ferocity. Bear hunting has a vast history throughout Europe and North America, and hunting practices have varied based on location and type of bear.


Bears are large mammals in the order Carnivora. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere. The IUCN lists six bear species as vulnerable or endangered, and even "least concern" species such as the brown bear are at risk of extirpation in certain countries. Poaching and illegal international trade of threatened populations continues.

Brown bear

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is a large species of bear distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Brown bear tracks have much deeper claw indentations than those made by black bears. [1]

Regional variations

The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) is a North American subspecies. Grizzly bears are brown in color although not all brown bears inhabiting the interior of Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories are grizzlies. Inland grizzlies tend to be much smaller than their coastal relatives. Grizzly bear seasons open in the spring or autumn depending on local regulations and jurisdictions. In most of the lower 48 states, grizzlies are considered a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Grizzly bears are legally hunted in British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Alaska. [2]

The Syrian brown bear (Ursus arctos syriacus) is a small and pale-furred bear subspecies found in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and the Caucasus mountains of Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. These bears are hunted mostly in the Caucasus, by stalking, where the harsh terrain offers a greater challenge to the hunter. [3]

The Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) is most widespread subspecies of brown bear in the old world. It is mainly found today in Russia, Romania, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, with smaller numbers being found in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece, and remnant populations are found in Spain, France and Italy. The non-endangered European population of Eurasian bear is hunted mostly in the north-western part of Russia, while the Asian population is hunted in the Ural mountains and in eastern Siberia. Eurasian browns are usually hunted by baiting during the spring or autumn or by chance encounter while hunting other species. [3]

The Amur brown bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus) is smaller and darker than the Kamchatka brown bear, with a differently shaped skull and much larger teeth. Its range encompasses far eastern Russia, Northeastern Heilongjiang and Hokkaidō. It is usually hunted in the Khabarovsk and Primorsk regions by stalking. [3]

The Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus) is a large subspecies found in far eastern Siberia. It is similar to the Kodiak bear, though darker in colour. These bears are usually hunted in the Shantar Islands (Okhotsk) and Magadan. In the spring, bears are hunted in coastal areas where they gather for food. During the autumn, bears are hunted while feeding on salmon or wild berries in the surrounding tundra. The average size of the bears taken is around 7.5-8.0 ft in Magadan and Okhotsk and 8.0-8.5 ft. in Kamchatka. [3]

The Siberian brown bear (Ursus arctos collaris) is larger than the Eurasian brown bear, with denser bones and a slightly larger and heavier skull. Its fur is considered to be among the most luxuriant. It is smaller than the Kamchatka brown bear, though it is also said to be equal in aggression to an American grizzly. It lives east of the Yenisey River in most of Siberia (though absent in the habitats of the Kamchatka and Amur brown bears.) It is also found in northern Mongolia, far northern Xinjiang, and extreme eastern Kazakhstan. They are usually hunted in the Krasnoyarsk Region, Irkutsk Region and Yakutia in late August and early June. These hunts usually take place in rugged and heavily forested terrain, in the foothills of the mountains, or along the shorelines, where the forest is less dense. [3]

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the most common bear species native to North America. The largest black bears are usually taken beginning in late May and continuing on through most of June during the breeding season. Springtime is the preferred choice of black bear hunters, when their coats are at their thickest. Heavily timbered forests near agricultural lands often sustain large densities of black bears. They can also be found in proximity to cereal crops such as oats. [4]



A bear's fur consists of two types of hair: the underfur and the outer guard hairs. The underfur, which is soft and dense, serves primarily as an insulator. The outer guard hairs are much thicker, longer and coarser, and while they also insulate, they primarily serve to protect the body from dirt, debris and insects, as well as to repel water. [5]

Black bear fur was considered more valuable in the American West than that of grizzly [6] and was once used to fabricate bearskins, which are tall fur caps worn as part of the ceremonial uniform of several regiments in various armies. The Inuit of Greenland use polar bear fur for clothing in areas where caribou and seals are scarce. Polar bear hide is wiry and bulky, making it difficult to turn into comfortable winter garments. [7]


Canned bear meat from Russia Corned bear opened can asv2018-01.jpg
Canned bear meat from Russia
Canned bear meat from Finland Bear Meat.jpg
Canned bear meat from Finland

In the Middle Ages, the eating of bear meat was considered more a symbolic than culinary act. The paws and thigh of the bear were considered the best parts. [8] It was significantly consumed in traditional Russian (Siberian) and Ainu culture. Even throughout modern Russia, bear meat is commonly cooked into dumplings. [9] Polar bears are a primary source of food for Inuit.[ citation needed ] Polar bear meat is usually baked or boiled in a soup or stew. It is never eaten raw. Polar bear liver is inedible, as it contains large amounts of vitamin A and is highly toxic. [7] Bear meat, with its greasy, coarse texture and sweet flavor, has tended to receive mixed reviews.[ citation needed ] Bear meat should be thoroughly cooked as it can carry a parasitic infection known as trichinella and is potentially lethal to humans. [4] It is the single biggest vector of trichinosis in North America. [9] Flavor is extremely variable [9] and dependent on the age and diet of the bear. The best meat apparently comes from two-year-old bears which eat more berries than fish. [10]


Bear fat has historically been used as cooking oil by both American settlers and Native Americans. [11] Bear fat can also be used as lamp fuel, with 40–50 grams being sufficient to last up to an hour. [8] Some Native American tribes used bear fat as a form of medicine.

Gall bladder

According to traditional Chinese medicine, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) taken from bear gall bladder, fresh bile liquid, or in dried crystal form, may work for rheumatism, poor eyesight and gall stones. Useful bile is said to be produced by all species of bear except the giant panda. [12]


In Europe of the late Middle Ages, the eating of bear meat was an aristocratic activity. In Tyrol and Piedmont, the village communities had to hand in a set number of bear paws to the local lord every year. [8]

North America

Traditionally, Kodiak Natives (Alutiiqs) hunted bears for food, clothing and tools. Arrows and spears were required hunting implements. Bear heads were usually left in the field as a sign of respect to the spirit of the bears. Kodiak bears were commercially hunted throughout the 1800s with the price paid for a bear hide being comparable to that paid for a beaver or river otter pelt (about US$10). [13]

In 1702, bear pelts were considered equal in worth to those of American beavers. 16,512 furs were sent to the French port of Rochelle in 1743, while 8,340 were exported from the east coast of the United States in 1763. [10] In the 19th century, as the settlers began increasingly moving west in pursuit of more land for ranching, bears were becoming increasingly more hunted as threats to livestock. In 1818, a “War of Extermination” against wolves and bears was declared in Ohio. [14] Bear pelts were usually sold for 220 dollars in the 1860s. [10]

Grizzly bear hunting in Northern California in 1882 Return from the Bear Hunt.jpg
Grizzly bear hunting in Northern California in 1882

Between 1850 and 1920 grizzly bears were eliminated from 95% of their original range, with extirpation occurring earliest on the Great Plains and later in remote mountainous areas. Unregulated killing of bears continued in most places through the 1950s and resulted in a further 52% decline in their range between 1920 and 1970. Grizzly bears managed to survive this last period of hunting only in remote wilderness areas larger than 26,000 km2 (10,000 mi2). Overall, grizzly bears were eliminated from 98% of their original range in the contiguous United States during a 100-year period. [15]

Prior to Anglo-American colonization in 1820, black bears were widely distributed throughout all major eco-regions in Texas. The supply of both meat and fat lasted about a century after the first Anglo-American settlers arrived. However, after their value for grease and food had decreased, black bears continued to be pursued and killed for their trophy value. Black bears in East Texas were seriously reduced to scattered remnant populations or eliminated altogether in many areas largely as a result of indiscriminate and unregulated hunting by the time the first organized survey of mammals took place from 1890 to 1904. [11] The last native East Texas black bear is believed to have been killed in the 1950s. [16]


Bears are hard to hunt, as they generally live in dense forests or thick brush. They are, however, easy to trap. [17] Where they are hunted frequently, bears become purely nocturnal. [6]

Once a general area is identified, a bear hunt usually begins by looking for claw marks on trees. [4] Scores in bear hunts are based on the width and length of the skull. [10]


Bear hunt in Dalarna, Sweden, early 20th century. Bjornjakt i Dalarna - Nordiska Museet - NMA.0052736.jpg
Bear hunt in Dalarna, Sweden, early 20th century.

Hunters carrying firearms tend to favour calibres large enough to inflict as much tissue and bone damage as possible, as grizzly and brown bears can generally withstand a number of direct shots to the limbs or torso without ceasing their attack. Bears have the ability to dramatically lower their heart rate when hibernating and will readily do so if injured, as a defense mechanism against blood loss. Hunters pursuing the animal deliberately might use a caliber larger than they would for the deer, elk and caribou that commonly co-inhabit the same area. If they intend to keep the hide, and to ensure a quick and humane kill, they may prefer to use a large bullet that will break the bear's shoulder and continue through the vital organs, ideally leaving an exit wound large enough to leave a blood trail to assist locating the downed animal.

Bear spear

The bear spear was a medieval type of spear used in hunting for bears and other large animals. The sharpened head of a bear spear was enlarged and usually had a form of a bay leaf. Right under the head there was a short crosspiece that helped fixing the spear in the body of an animal. Often it was placed against the ground on its rear point, which made it easier to hold the weight of an attacking beast.


Often, bears will be attracted through the use of baits such as a rotting carcass, bakery by-products, sweets, or even jellies. A hunter will then watch one or more baits from a stand, armed with a rifle, bow or shotgun. Many states within the US, have changed their hunting regulations and banned baiting as a form of bear hunting. [18]


In the Russian Far East, a lasso-like rope loop is hung across a path which bears are known to frequent; its end is tied to a tree. The bear passes through the rope as it walks by and the lasso tightens around its body as it continues to move. Eventually the bear becomes so entangled within the rope that it can no longer move. After a few days, the hunter arrives to finish off the immobilised animal. [19]


It is possible to attract bears by calling, imitating the sound of injured prey. Bears seem to have very short attention spans and if they are responding to a call and the sound stops, generally the bear will cease following the sound. Two callers are often better than one when calling bear as they can keep up continuous calling for longer periods of time. Bears can hear a call for distances up to a mile and often will take their time in responding. [20]

Hunting dogs

A medieval bear hunt with dogs Hirschvogel Bear Hunt.jpg
A medieval bear hunt with dogs

In his book Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that though small terriers could be used against bears, they usually only worked against bears which had never had the experience of being hunted before. The terriers would irritate and distract the bear with their yapping as the hunter creeped unnoticed. However, once the bear would notice the hunter, it would immediately ignore the dogs and retreat. [6]

He did however mention big half-breed hounds sometimes used in the Alleghanies of West Virginia, which were trained not merely to nip a bear, but to grip the grizzly by the hock as it ran. A pack of such dogs, trained to dash straight at the head and hold on like a vice, though unable to kill the bear, would hold it in place long enough for the hunter to finish it. [6]

However, bears were dangerous quarry for the dogs to tackle, and pack losses were not uncommon. Though a large number of dogs could kill sick or very young bears, they could not do so with healthy adults. [6]

These big dogs can only overcome such foes by rushing in a body and grappling all together; if they hang back, lunging and snapping, a cougar or bear will destroy them one by one. With a quarry so huge and redoubtable as the grisly, no number of dogs, however large and fierce, could overcome him unless they all rushed on him in a mass, the first in the charge seizing by the head or throat. If the dogs hung back, or if there were only a few of them, or if they did not seize around the head, they would be destroyed without an effort. It is murder to slip merely one or two close-quarter dogs at a grisly.

Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches, Chapter III: Old Ephraim the Grisly bear

Today, it is more common for hunters to use dogs to track a bear. Often riding in the back of a truck to catch a scent, the dog will start to bark when there is a track. Dogs will then follow the track showing the way for the hunters. [21] Modern bear hunters use hounds of mixed breeding to tree bears. [22] Bear dogs used to track and tree American black bears in Michigan are typically cross-bred hounds, often with GPS tracking collars on one or more dogs to help locate the pack in the dense forest. [23]


In the expansion era of the American west, poison was usually only practiced by the owners of cattle or sheep who had suffered losses from bears, though this was rarely put into practice seeing as bears were harder to poison than most other carnivores such as wolves. [6]


See also

Related Research Articles

Brown bear Species of bear found across Eurasia and North America.

The brown bear is a bear species found across Eurasia and North America. In North America, the populations of brown bears are called grizzly bears. It is one of the largest living terrestrial members of the order Carnivora, rivaled in size only by its closest relative, the polar bear, which is much less variable in size and slightly bigger on average. The brown bear's range includes parts of Russia, Central Asia, China, Canada, the United States, Hokkaido, Scandinavia, the Balkans, the Picos de Europa and the Carpathian region, especially Romania, Bulgaria, Iran, Anatolia and the Caucasus. The brown bear is recognized as a national and state animal in several European countries.

Polar bear Species of bear native largely within the Arctic Circle

The polar bear is a hypercarnivorous bear whose native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is a large bear, approximately the same size as the omnivorous Kodiak bear. A boar weighs around 350–700 kg (772–1,543 lb), while a sow is about half that size. Polar bears are the largest land carnivores currently in existence, rivaled only by the Kodiak bear. Although it is the sister species of the brown bear, it has evolved to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice and open water, and for hunting seals, which make up most of its diet. Although most polar bears are born on land, they spend most of their time on the sea ice. Their scientific name means "maritime bear" and derives from this fact. Polar bears hunt their preferred food of seals from the edge of sea ice, often living off fat reserves when no sea ice is present. Because of their dependence on the sea ice, polar bears are classified as marine mammals.

American black bear Species of bear

The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most widely distributed bear species. American black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes they become attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food. The American black bear is the world's most common bear species.

In American folklore, the Golden Bear was a large golden Ursus arctos. Members of the Ursus arctos species can reach masses of 130–700 kilograms (290–1,540 lb). The grizzly bear and the Kodiak bear are North American subspecies of the brown bear.

California grizzly bear Subspecies of mammal

The California grizzly bear is an extinct subspecies or population of the grizzly bear, the very large North American brown bear. "Grizzly" could have meant "grizzled", that is, with golden and grey tips of the hair or "fear-inspiring". Nonetheless, after careful study, naturalist George Ord formally classified it in 1815 – not for its hair, but for its character – as Ursus horribilis. Genetically, North American brown bears are closely related; in size and coloring, the California grizzly bear was much like the Kodiak bear of the southern coast of Alaska. In California, it was particularly admired for its beauty, size, and strength. The grizzly became a symbol of the Bear Flag Republic, a moniker that was attached to the short-lived attempt by a group of American settlers to break away from Mexico in 1846. Later, this rebel flag became the basis for the state flag of California, and then California was known as the "Bear State."

Kodiak bear largest species of living bear

The Kodiak bear, also known as the Kodiak brown bear, sometimes the "Alaskan brown bear", inhabits the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago in southwest Alaska. It is the largest recognized subspecies or population of the brown bear, and one of the two largest bears alive today, the other being the polar bear.

Atlas bear subspecies of mammal

The names Atlas bear and African bear have been applied to an extinct population or populations of the brown bear in North Africa. The Cantabrian brown bear likely was introduced to Africa from Spain by the Romans who imported Iberian bears for spectacles.

Eurasian brown bear subspecies of brown bear

The Eurasian brown bear is one of the most common subspecies of the brown bear, and is found in much of Eurasia. It is also known as the European brown bear, common brown bear, common bear, and colloquially by many other names. "The genetic diversity of present-day brown bears has been extensively studied over the years and appears to be geographically structured into five main clades based upon analysis of the mtDNA."

Ursid hybrid Bear hybrids

An ursid hybrid is an animal with parents from two different species or subspecies of the bear family (Ursidae). Species and subspecies of bear known to have produced offspring with another bear species or subspecies include black bears, grizzly bears and polar bears, all of which are members of the genus Ursus. Bears not included in Ursus, such as the giant panda, are expected to be unable to produce hybrids with other bears. Note all of the confirmed hybrids listed here have been in captivity, but suspected hybrids have been found in the wild.

Syrian brown bear subspecies of mammal

The Syrian brown bear is a relatively small subspecies of brown bear native to the Middle East.

Grizzly–polar bear hybrid hybrid between polar bear and grizzly bear

A grizzly–polar bear hybrid is a rare ursid hybrid that has occurred both in captivity and in the wild. In 2006, the occurrence of this hybrid in nature was confirmed by testing the DNA of a unique-looking bear that had been shot near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic. The number of confirmed hybrids has since risen to eight, all of them descending from the same female polar bear.

Hunting in Russia

Hunting in Russia has an old tradition in terms of indigenous people, while the original features of state and princely economy were farming and cattle-breeding. There was hunting for food as well as sport. The word "hunting" first appeared in the common Russian language at the end of the 15th century. Before that the word "catchings" existed to designate the hunting business in general. The hunting grounds were called in turn lovishcha ("ловища"). In the 15th-16th centuries, foreign ambassadors were frequently invited to hunts; they also received some of the prey afterwards. So did Feodor I in particular, once sending out nine elks, one bear and a black-and-brown fox.

Kamchatka brown bear subspecies of mammal

The Kamchatka brown bear, also known as the "Far Eastern brown bear", or in Russian: Камчатский бурый медведь, is a subspecies of brown bear native to the Anadyrsky District, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Karaginskiy Island, the Kuril Islands, the coastal strip west of the Sea of Okhotsk southward to the Stanovoy Range, and the Shantar Islands in the Far East. Outside the former Soviet Union, the subspecies occurs in Saint Lawrence Island in the Bering sea. It is closely related to one clade of brown bears in Alaska and northwest North America, and is thought to be the ancestor of the Kodiak bear.

Bear attack attack by any mammal of the Ursidae family

A bear attack is an attack by any mammal of the family Ursidae, on another animal, although it usually refers to bears attacking humans or domestic pets. Bear attacks are of particular concern for those who are in bear habitats. They can be fatal and often hikers, hunters, fishers, and others in bear country take precautions against bear attacks.

Ussuri brown bear subspecies of mammal

The Ussuri brown bear, also known as the Ezo brown bear and the black grizzly bear, is a subspecies of the brown bear or population of the Eurasian brown bear. One of the largest brown bears, a very large Ussuri brown bear may approach the Kodiak bear in size. The Ussuri is not the same subspecies as the grizzly bear.

Grizzly bear Subspecies of mammal

The grizzly bear, also known as the North American brown bear or simply grizzly, is a large population or subspecies of the brown bear inhabiting North America.

Alaska Peninsula brown bear subspecies of mammal

The Alaska Peninsula brown bear or "peninsular grizzly" is a colloquial nomenclature for a brown bear that lives in the coastal regions of southern Alaska, although according to other sources, it is a population of the mainland brown bear subspecies, or the Kodiak bear subspecies.

Ungava brown bear

The Ungava brown bear is an extinct population of grizzly bears that inhabited the forests of northern Quebec and Labrador until the early 20th century, and is thus also known as the "Labrador grizzly bear", and "Labrador-Ungava grizzly", and due to one of the first scientific evidences for its existence coming from Okak Island, the "Okak grizzly". Reports of its existence were doubtful at best, until a skull was unearthed by anthropologist Steven Cox in 1975.

Formerly or currently considered subspecies or populations of brown bears have been listed as follows:

Dietary biology of the brown bear

The brown bear is one of the most omnivorous animals in the world and has been recorded consuming the greatest variety of foods of any bear. Throughout life, this species is regularly curious about the potential of eating virtually any organism or object that they encounter. Certainly no other animal in their given ecosystems, short perhaps of other bear species and humans, can claim to feed on as broad a range of dietary opportunities. Food that is both abundant and easily obtained is preferred. Their jaw structure has evolved to fit their dietary habits. Their diet varies enormously throughout their differing areas based on opportunity. In spring, winter-provided carrion, grasses, shoots, sedges and forbs are the dietary mainstays for brown bears from almost every part of their distribution. Fruits, including berries, become increasingly important during summer and early autumn. Roots and bulbs become critical in autumn for some inland bear populations if fruit crops are poor. The dietary variability is illustrated in the western United States, as meat made up 51% of the average year-around diet for grizzly bears from Yellowstone National Park, while it made up only 11% of the year-around diet for grizzlies from Glacier National Park a few hundred miles to the north.


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