Why do black bears go through color phases?
What is a color phase black bear?
Despite the name, black bears come in many colors, not just black. The cause of the fur color can be attributed to a few reasons. One of the biggest reasons is camouflage. Black bears inhabit many different environments, so different fur colors can give bears an advantage over pure black bears. Scientists also think that the color of the bear can be affected by the temperature of the climate in which the bear lives. Lighter bears regulate their body temperature better in hotter climates, and darker-colored bears retain heat better in colder climates. However it is hard to believe this theory as Manitoba has a very large % of color phase yet is one of the coldest areas in NA. Ultimately, it comes down to natural selection and genetics. Black bears in certain regions have bred to become certain colors in their populations. Like all things nature, it will keep us guessing.
What colors phases do black bear's have?
There are five color varieties of black bears. The first and most common is the classic black fur black bear. Even though this is the most common color, there can be differing shades to the black fur, and in certain lighting, it may look brown as well, which leads to the next most common fur color. Brown-black bears have slightly lighter coats than their black counterparts. Their fur color can range from a dark chocolate brown to a light brown color. The next color is the cinnamon black bear. These bears have a reddish-brown color to their coat. The fourth color is the blond-black bear. These bears are relatively rare and are the most sought after by passionate bear hunters. Their fur can range from a very light brown to blond or a cream color. The last color of the black bear is the blue phase black bear. These are most commonly found in Alaska. These bears are not actually blue but can have a blue hew in certain lighting or even a silver tint to their coat. An interesting observation we have noticed is many bears will have a colorful "patch" (often called a Blaze, or Chevron) on their chest. When on a Black colored bear it will almost always be white. When on a colored bear it will almost always be an off white or creamy color. Very rarely will a brown, cinnamon or blond bear have a pure white "patch or markings. Another interesting variation we will see is multi colored bears. It can be a any color variation and can be visible anywhere on the bear. We have many pictures of this, even a different color patches or stripes on the body of the bear. Most often though the different colors will be seen on the legs/feet and head. Now, this can also be seen on bears in the spring when they are shedding their winter coat. The under hair is often a different tone than the outer hair. Rubbed bears will also appear to look multi colored at times. (Why do bears rub in the spring? We'll post about that another time.)
Where are the best places in Canada to hunt for color-phase bears?
Manitoba, Canada, offers some of Canada's best color phase bear hunting. Of course, the black phase is still the most common bear you will encounter in Manitoba, but hunters can also come across brown, cinnamon, and blond phase black bears. If you hunt specific areas, you can increase your chances of finding the color phase you want. If you want more information or to book a hunt for a color-phase black bear, contact us!
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