Understanding basic bear terminology
Bear tours organized with an expert wildlife company are a great way to observe these magnificent animals in a safe and instructive way. If you are embarking on a tour with a qualified wildlife guide, you may hear some unfamiliar terms, so before you go, be sure to brush up on your bear vocabulary.
Adaptation – Adaptation is a biological process in which a species gradually adapts to its environment. Like most plants and animals, bears have adapted to their individual environments and have specialized characteristics that help them make the most of their environment. The polar bear, for example, has evolved over thousands of years to adapt to its icy environment with wide legs, thick fat, and white fur.
Habitat – During bear tours, you are stepping on the bear’s habitat, its natural ecological and environmental home. For example, deciduous and coniferous forests are the habitat of the black bear, and the edges of the Arctic ice sheet are the habitat of the polar bears.
Hide – On most bear tours, you will observe the animals from a hideout (sometimes called blind in North America). A hide is a refuge used to observe wildlife up close. It is usually camouflaged to blend in with the environment of the observed animal. A hide is somewhat reminiscent of a garden shed, usually made of wood, with small openings or shutters built into the side to allow for observation. Some skins, especially those built for bird watching, are pretty simple, maybe just a wooden screen. Bear skins are much sturdier, and some even have baths and beds inside for the night.
Naturalist – Most bear tours will be led by a qualified naturalist, an expert in natural history fields such as zoology or botany. A naturalist will have spent many years studying plants and animals in nature.
Organized – A range is the geographic area normally inhabited by a species. For example, a brown bear’s range includes Alaska, southwestern Canada, and parts of the northwestern United States. The range of a bear, on the other hand, is simply the area in which an individual animal lives, hunts, and mates during its lifetime. The size of an animal’s range is influenced by the food available, the pairs, the time of year, and the age and size of the animal.
Subspecies – You may be overwhelmed by the huge and diverse family of bears, but remember that there are only eight species of bears: the black bear, the brown bear, the polar bear, the Asiatic black bear, the sloth bear, the sun bear and the polar bear. Giant panda. All other bears, such as the Grizzly Bear or the Spirit Bear, are subspecies of an existing species.
Territory – On occasion, some bears may show aggression to defend their territory, an area of their habitat over which they claim dominance. The territory can be defended for courtship and feeding rights or, in the case of females, for reproduction.
On bear tours, as with any wildlife tour, it helps to have a little knowledge ahead of time. With the correct facts and phrases, you can gain a richer and more informative experience observing these amazing animals.