Yes, we know that bears are fearsome predators.
They are mighty, they can eat the flesh of anything, and they can go toe-to-toe with top killers in the animal kingdom.
From ants to big fish, deer, and even to man, these beasts, when given the chance, would consider almost any other animal as fresh delicacies.
However, not all bears are simply carnivores. Some of them are opportunistic omnivores that feed on both flesh and plants. Others like giant pandas are mere herbivores that prefer just carrots, honey, leaves, roots, berries, and other plant materials.
Now, to the big question; Are bears active during the day (diurnal) or at night(nocturnal)?
Well, the answer to that question might be a bit obscure. And that’s because there are different kinds of bears in different parts of the world eating different foods and displaying different habits. Now, each region demands different tactics from each species of bear.
Oftentimes, this may require these creatures to adapt to different conditions and different times of the day. But here today, this write-up will try to keep the lines clear using different question tags. So, do your best to read along.
#1: How many types of bears are there?
You see, the issue of whether bears are diurnal or nocturnal shouldn’t have been a confusing matter at all. But as earlier said, the earth is home to different species of bears. Because of the different environmental demands, food availability, and distribution, bears are forced to adapt in different ways. These adaptations are peculiar to each species of bears.
Now, according to verified statistics, there are currently 8 species of bears. We have the Asiatic black bears (aka, the moon bears), the brown bears (which include our dear old fearsome friends, the grizzly bears), and the giant pandas. In the Americas, we have the North American black bears, polar bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears (aka the Andean bears), and sun bears.
On average, most bears can live up to about 25 years in the wild and 50 while in captivity. Six species, including both the polar bear and the giant panda, are rated as threatened or vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. But a good number of other species still roam the earth, both day and night.
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#2: What do bears eat? And like people say, do bears eat honey?
Yes. Bears do love the taste of honey. So, they are automatically attracted to beehives. But unlike in Winnie the Pooh, the bears eat more than just honey.
In fact, bears also consume the bees and larvae inside the beehive. Both of which are good sources of protein that brown and black bears can go to any length to acquire. In fact, in some parts of the world, some bears will go right through electric fences and endure the shock as long as they can get a taste of real honey. Since most bees are diurnal, brown and black bears would have to stay awake in the day to get their prize.
However, the thing is, bears don’t eat honey alone. Some like polar bears eat mostly the fat and meat of other creatures like seals and other marine mammals. Grizzly and black bears, in another part of the world, eat mostly vegetation, insects, berries, and meat from caribou, young moose, and deer. In Alaska, some brown bears pluck swarming salmon from the water or catch them right out of the air as the school jumps. Oftentimes, this happens during the day. So, you can say that brown bears are usually diurnal.
#3: Do bears hibernate? If yes, when do bears hibernate?
The basic rule in the animal kingdom emphasized the idea of survival of the fittest. For the bears, it’s more like a matter of survival of the fattest. You see, during winter, when food is scarce, most bears resort to an effective survival mechanism called hibernation.
In the world of biologists, hibernation is a physical state where the heart rate, respiration, body temperature, and overall metabolism are very reduced. In simpler terms, it’s more like sleeping both day and night without eating or doing anything.
For instance, Grizzly and black bears can go for 100 days or so without eating, drinking, urinating, or pooping. Instead, they live off a layer of fat that they had built up during summer and fall.
During hibernation, female bears rouse in their dens to give birth to up to four cubs. For others that don’t hibernate like the giant pandas, they usually give birth to just one cub. After a couple of months, these cubs would become strong enough to totter out after their mother. That happens in all bears except for the cubs of sloth bears which would rather hitch a ride on their mother’s back.
#4: Are most bears nocturnal?
Despite the different habits in most species, bears are usually active from dawn to dusk. That is, they are crepuscular animals. However, they may be seen any time of day or even night since they can be awake during both day and night.
But usually, bears nap in the middle of the night and in the middle of very hot days. Research into bear sleeping behavior revealed that this goes double for both black and grizzly bears which tend to nap at midday and midnight.
Yet, both species can also be active day or night, depending on several factors. This can include factors such as predator threats, threats from humans, and their species’ gender.
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#5: What are the common factors that influence a bear’s sleeping patterns?
Honestly, if you see a bear sleeping at any time of the day, be rest assured that several reasons can surround such an occurrence. But most of the time, the following nuggets can help pinpoint the most possible reasons:
- Nearness to Human Development – The closer the roads, houses, and campsites are to an active bear’s hideout, the more likely it is for those bears to be nocturnal. That means the bears would prefer to hunt more at night.
- Hunting Season – In hunting areas, bears often tend to be more active at night during hunting season. Well… you guessed this one right, they also do this to avoid hunters that might kill them.
- Gender – Several studies have revealed that female grizzlies tend to be more day-active while male grizzlies prefer to hunt more at night. The reason why they do this is still a wide controversy in the science world. But this alone is enough to tell you just how dicey it is to conclude whether bears are diurnal or nocturnal.
- Inter-Species Interactions – Now, in areas where black and brown bears are both active, studies have found black bears to be more active during the day and grizzly bears more active at night. Presumably, this is so that black bears can avoid being attacked by grizzly bears.
- Hunger and Time of Year – Bears usually tend to eat more in Spring right after hibernation and in Fall just before hibernation. Scientists say that they do this to put on weight. So, at these times, you can expect that bears will be more active around the clock.
Oftentimes, it’s true that bears’ activity depends on whether they live in areas close to human activity or not.
In fact, bears that live in many places of high human use tend to become nocturnal. But unlike many believed, they, surprisingly, do this in order to avoid people. In fact, campers often report coming across bears at night. And the explanation for this is that bears will usually avoid the camping sites during the day. When it’s nighttime, they can head into campgrounds because that’s when they think they’re safe from humans.
But then again, some bears have become habituated to people. So, to gain access to human’s plentiful buffet of improperly stored garbage and other attractants, these bears remain active during the day. Therefore, most bears are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. Rather, they are crepuscular, meaning they are active at dawn and dusk. This is one of the reasons why most people hunt bears during the day, between dawn and dusk.
Also, since it has been shown that bears tend to be bolder to approach humans at night than in the day, there are many laws in parts of North America outlawing night-time hunting. This, of course, is another reason why hunting is often during the day and why many people think that bears are active only during the day. But so far, this write-up has been trying to give you reasons to think otherwise, right?
#6: What do you do if a bear approaches you?
Well… Since we mentioned laws guiding bear hunting, we might as well take a look at how best to escape a bear attack. As earlier said, you can encounter bears any time of the day. If you live in a bear-prone area, an uncompleted building, a dumpster, in your backyard, in the woods, or even just around the corner may not be a safe place. So here are the things to do in some of these scenarios:
- What to do if you meet a bear in a building, by a dumpster, or around the corner?
- Start by giving the bear a clear escape route. Make sure you don’t corner it.
- Try to leave any doors open and slowly back away from the bear.
- Try not to lock the bear in a room.
- What to do if you encounter a bear in your backyard?
- Make a loud noise like pot or pan banging from a safe distance to scare away the bear.
- As soon as the bear leaves, ensure you remove potential attractants like garbage, birdseed, or any form of pet food.
- Also, ensure to politely educate your neighbors on the need to remove such attractants.
- Always check your yard for bears before letting your dog out.
- What to do if you meet a bear in the Woods?
- If you see a bear before it notices you, standstill. Try not to approach and enjoy the moment. Then quietly, move away in the opposite direction.
- If you encounter a bear that’s aware of you, unlike your instincts would tell you; don’t run! This is because running may trigger a chase response. Instead, try to slowly back away in the opposite direction and wait for the bear to leave.
#7: Where do bears sleep at night?
While there are many reasons why bears could sleep at night, most bears often sleep during summer. But then, this, unlike hibernation, happens only for short periods.
Though, since bears are nomadic, they can sleep anywhere as long as they feel safe. Common examples of such safe spots are In secluded meadows, up in the trees, in briar patches, and also among fallen trees. These non-hibernation sleeping patterns are sporadic. Most likely, it depends on factors of time of year, levels of hunger, and proximity of known dangers.
In the case of black bears, they always try to sleep in shaded places during the warmest portion of the day. What this means is that black bears tend to retire to dense forests around lunchtime and early afternoon. That’s why it’s most unlikely you see them during these times.
However, bears generally don’t have one regular place of rest. Instead, they roam far and wide, sleeping wherever they feel comfortable. By comfortable, they choose places that are safe from predators Oftentimes, that’s always up in a tree.
During Spring and Autumn, bears may only get 4 hours of sleep a day. In midsummer, they are prone to taking midday naps. In winter, they can hibernate for 6 to 7 months and will rarely emerge during that time. When they are not sleeping, bears are quite busier than most people think. They spend a significant portion of their time foraging, wandering, climbing, swimming, and doing other activities.
In a nutshell, it’s really difficult to conclude whether bears are nocturnal or diurnal animals. So, it’s wise to just say that they are crepuscular. As earlier pointed out, this means that they are most active at dawn and dusk. They are most likely to be sleeping in the middle of the day and middle of the night Though, a range of factors like gender, and others can influence their sleep patterns. But primarily, bears are prone to act out of fear and only sleep when they feel most safe from the attacks from other bears and other animals, especially humans.