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10 things you probably don't know about bears

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on Oct. 20, 2015, 9:36 a.m.
A cinnamon black bear sow with cub.

Photo: Richard Seeley/Shutterstock

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Brown bear or black bear?

The bears in this photo are not brown bears, as you might have guessed at first glance. They are actually a cinnamon-colored black bear sow and her blonde cub.

Though they are called black bears, the species comes in a range of colors. According to the North American Bear Center, "Black bears come in more colors than any other North American mammal. They can be black, brown, cinnamon, blond, blue-gray, or white."

The variation in color has to do with their environment. A lighter color is more common in black bears in Western states, as the lighter shades help them blend in better in open meadows as well as reduces heat stress. In the Northeast, on the other hand, around 97 percent of black bears are black in color, whereas around half of the black bears in the West are shades of brown.

It is common for people to mistake black bears as grizzly bears when just looking at the color of their fur. However, there are quite a few characteristics that separate the species. Black bears are in general a noticeably smaller size, they lack the prominent shoulder hump of brown bears, and black bears have a more narrow, straight facial profile and taller ears than brown bears.