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In 2006 the Alabama Legislature designated the Black Bear (subfamily ursinae, Ursus americanus Pallas), to be the official state mammal of Alabama.
In 2005, a project was conceived by Shirley West, Director of Turtle Point Environmental Science Center in Flomatin, Shiren McGlothren, teacher
at Escambia County Middle School in Atmore, and her 8th grade science students.The project to research and promote the black bear as an official representative
of Alabama was intended to teach the group of students how bills were prepared, presented, and passed into law. The students chose the black bear because
it is Alabama's largest mammal and is in need of special attention. On April 12, 2006, Governor Bob Riley, joined by students from Escambia County
schools, signed Senate Bill No. 76, making the black bear Alabama's official state mammal.
Black bears in Alabama are normally black with a brown muzzle and an occasional white blaze on the chest. Average body weights range from 150 to 350 pounds for adult males and 120 to 250 pounds for females with body lengths from 3 to 6 feet. Black bears are classified as carnivores even thought their omnivorous diet consists mainly of plant material. Black bears are poor predators and only eat vertebrate animals when the opportunity presents itself. Female black bears typically begin having cubs at three to five years of age; however, in marginal habitats, this may increase to seven years. Mating generally occurs in the summer months, and cubs are born in winter dens in January and February. Litter size can range from one to five with twins being most common. The sex ratio at birth usually one male to one female. Cubs measure only 8 inches in length and weigh from 8 to 12 ounces when born.
Female black bears begin to mate at 3 to 5 years of age and have one to four cubs every other year. The young remain with their mother the first
year, den with her the following winter, and search for their own territory in their second summer.
Bears tend to range over large areas in search of basic needs such as food, escape cover, den sites, and mates. Males have been known to range over 100 square miles while females occupy much smaller home ranges, often less than 10 square miles.
Although classified as carnivores, Alabama black bears are not active predators. These intelligent mammals are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything that is available. Although natural foods, such as berries and acorns, comprise a majority of a bear's diet, bears readily take advantage of food options provided by humans. When available, bears may feed on agricultural crops such as corn, wheat, oats, and sugarcane, occasionally damage beehives in search of honey, and will readily become habituated to human garbage when the opportunity exists.
Black bears are very intelligent, shy and secretive animals, and generally work hard at avoiding contact with humans. Dangerous situations may occur whenever close human activity is perceived as a danger to cubs or otherwise threatening. The best advice is for humans to avoid close contact with bears.
American Black Bears are up to 6 feet (1.8 m) long and weigh up to 300 pounds (135 kg). Their long, thick fur ranges in color from black to brown. Like all bears, they are plantigrade (flat-footed). The front claws are longer than the rear claws. Its habitat in West Virginia is primarily in the eastern mountain region. The black bear still roams freely throughout 36 states and Canada.
Black Bears are good swimmers and can also climb trees. They have a good sense of smell but have poor eyesight. They are afraid of Grizzly Bears and stay far away from them.
Two to three cubs are born during the winter while the mother hibernates. Cubs stay with the mother for about one year.
American Black Bears are omnivores who eat plants, leaves, fruits, berries, nuts, roots, honey, insects, and other small mammals.
Females reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age and mating will take place in June, July and August. Pairs may come together for a few hours or several days, copulating many times. Gestation is approximately 220 days and the cubs are born in their mother's winter den in January or February. Cubs are weaned at around 8 months but may remain with their mother for a year and a half.
Black bears are usually solitary animals except females with young. A pair may come together for several days during mating season and in time of abundant food, several bears may feed closely together with little interaction. Male bears keep large territories that overlap the smaller ranges of several females. Bears will leave territorial signposts both through scent marking and by leaving long claw marks in tree bark.
The law designating the black bear as the official Alabama state mammal is found in The Code of Alabama 1975, Title 1, Chapter 2.
Chapter 2 STATE SYMBOLS AND HONORS.
Section 1-2-36 State mammal.
The Black Bear, subfamily ursinae, Ursus americanus Pollas, 1780, is hereby designated as the official state mammal of Alabama
(Act 2006-245, §1.)
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Black Bear
Species: U. americanus