Black bears are opportunistic omnivores, which typically consume much more vegetation than meat, especially in spring, when they head for the wetlands to partake of emerging tender greens. In fact, an analysis of bear scats over the course of a year in the Great Smoky Mountains, showed that in April and May, the black bear diet consisted of over 90% grasses and herbs.
Hoping to capture videos of a mother bear with cub(s), I stationed a camera facing a beaver pond in early April. While a mother bear feeds, she sometimes sends her cubs up into a large conifer for refuge, so I put the camera near a large white pine with ladder-like low branches, which would make climbing easy for young cubs. A final habitat feature in this camera set-up is the beaver dam (to the far left in the video). Many animals, including bears, use these as crossing structures, and you can see in the video that these bears did just that. These features potentially make the site an attractive spot for a bear with cubs, increasing the odds of my desired capture.
I was fortunate enough to get a mother with cubs, and while mom did not send the cub up the tree as I had envisioned, they did pass through twice. In the first clip (April 13th), the cub places its front paws on the tree, as if it would like to climb.
Note that the April 24th clip features a lone bear. This animal looks thinner than the mother with the cub, so I’m guessing it is a sub-adult.
Be sure to watch the video to the very end, so you won’t miss the cub running into view, in full color!
Black Bear Video
Eagle, T. C. and M. R. Pelton. 1983. Seasonal Nutrition of Black Bears in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. International Conference Bear Research and Management. 5:94-101.