Black bears undoubtedly evolved as forest animals and are rarely found far from trees. They are excellent climbers and easily ascend trees by hooking or gripping them with their short, narrow claws. Cubs are capable of climbing as soon as they exit their natal den and readily climb in response to intrusion by strange bears or humans. The sow does not need to signal the cubs to climb, although she may readily do so. Cubs can easily climb to 100 feet or more. Black bears of all ages retain the climbing ability, although some old, large males may be reluctant to do so. The bears climb not only to escape a threat but also to rest, sleep, play, nurse, obtain food, or attain shelter.

Black bears are also good swimmers and do not hesitate to enter water, whether to cross a waterway or to bathe or wallow. Two bears translocated to a small island in Newfoundland swam at least 0.6 mile through salt water to return to the capture site. Bears have also been seen swimming in Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming, "miles from shore". In Massachusetts, bears regularly swim across the Connecticut River.

Although black bears sometimes appear to be clumsy and to waddle or amble along, they are capable of fast speed for short distances. Bears have been clocked at speeds of up to 35 mph.

Did you know ?
Native American Names for Bear

Abenaki: awasos
Algonquin: makwa
Blackfoot: kiááyo
Carrier: sʌs
Cree: maskwa
Dene: tsah
Ojibwe: makwaa
Crow: daxpitchée
Gwich'in: shooh-zhraii
Hopi: hoonaw
Lakota (Sioux): mato
Navajo: shash (łizhinígíí)
Nez Perce: yáakaʼ
Sahaptin: yáka
Shoshone: wedaʼ
Tlingit: sʼeeḵ
Tsalagi: gv-ni-ge-yo-na

The word 'Baribal' is often used as a name for the black bear in Spanish, French and Italian. Although the root word is popularly written as being from an unspecified Native American language, there is no evidence for this.

Nahuatl: tlācamāyeh
Tarahumara: ojuí
Guarijio: ohoí
Kiliwa: kmákan
Kickapoo: mahkwa
Yoreme: jóona
O'odham: judumi

The American black bear or North American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. 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 listed by the IUCN as Least Concern, due to the species' widespread distribution and a large global population estimated to be twice that of all other bear species combined. American black bears often mark trees using their teeth and claws as a form of communication with other bears, a behavior common to many species of bears.
References: Bray and Barnes 1967, Elowe 1984, Herrero 1972, Herrero 1983, Hill 1942, Kolenosky and Strathearn 1987a, Payne 1975, Schullery 1986
Source: Wikipedia

Check out this amazing video of a black bear casually swimming in Lake Superior. A sailor spotted the bear near the Apostle Islands, about a mile off shore. Good thing black bears are excellent swimmers!

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