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The Bear


There are several species of the Bear tribe which inhabit our continent,

the most prominent of which are the Grizzly, and the Musquaw or

common Black Bear. There is no other animal of this country which

is more widely and deservedly dreaded than the grizzly bear. There

are other creatures, the puma and wild cat, for instance, which

are dangerous when cornered or wounded, but they are not given to

open and deliberate at
ack upon human beings. The grizzly, however,

or Ephraim, as he is commonly termed by trappers, often displays

a most unpleasant readiness to attack and pursue a man, even in

the face of fire arms. In many localities, however, where hunting

has been pursued to considerable extent, these animals have learned

from experience a wholesome fear of man, and are not so ready to

assume the offensive, but a wounded grizzly is one of the

most horrible antagonists of which it is possible to conceive,

rushing upon its victim with terrible fury, and dealing most tearing

and heavy blows with its huge claws.

In length this formidable animal often exceeds eight feet, and its

color varies from yellowish to brownish black, and some specimens

are found of a dirty grey color.

The legs are usually darker than the rest of the body, and the

face is generally of a lighter tint. The fore limbs of the animal

are immensely powerful; and the foot of a full-grown individual

is fully eighteen inches long, and armed with claws five inches

in length. The grizzly inhabits the Rocky Mountain regions and

northward, being found in considerable numbers in the western part

of British America. Its hair is thick and coarse, except in the

young animal, which possesses a beautiful fur.

All other creatures seem to stand in fear of this formidable beast.

Even the huge bison, or buffalo, of the Western Prairies sometimes

falls a victim to the grizzly bear, and the very imprint of a bear's

foot upon the soil is a warning which not even a hungry wolf will


Its food consists of whatever animal it can seize, whether human

or otherwise. He also devours green corn, nuts, and fruits of all

kinds. In his earlier years he is a good climber, and will ascend

a tree with an agility which is surprisingly inconsistent with

the unwieldy proportions of his body.

The average weight of a full-grown grizzly is over eight hundred

pounds, and the girth around the body is about eight feet.

The Black bear, or Musquaw, which we illustrate is common throughout

nearly all the half settled-districts of North America. But as the

fur and fat are articles of great commercial value, the hunters

and trappers have exercised their craft with such skill and

determination that the animals are gradually decreasing in numbers.

The total length of the black bear is seldom more than six feet,

and its fur is smooth and glossy in appearance. The color of the

animal is rightly conveyed by its name, the cheeks only partaking

of a reddish fawn color.

It possesses little of that fierceness which characterizes the

grizzly, being naturally a very quiet and retiring creature, keeping

itself aloof from mankind, and never venturing near his habitations

except when excited by the pangs of fierce hunger. When pursued

or cornered it becomes a dangerous antagonist; and its furious

rage often results in fearful catastrophes to both man and beast.

Nothing but a rifle ball in the right spot will

check the creature, when wrought up to this pitch of fury, and an

additional wound only serves to increase its terrible ferocity.

Bear-chasing is an extremely dangerous sport; and there are few

bear-hunters in the land, however skilful, but what can show scars

from the claws or teeth of some exasperated bruin.

The food of the black bear is mostly of a vegetable character,

animal diet not being indulged in unless pressed by hunger. At

such times it seems to especially prefer a young pig as the most

desirable delicacy; and even full-grown hogs, it is said, are sometimes

lifted from their pens and carried off in his deadly embrace.

Honey is his especial delight; and he will climb trees with great

agility in order to reach a nest of bees, there being few obstacles

which his ready claws and teeth will not remove where that dainty

is in view. He is also very fond of acorns, berries, and fruits

of all kinds.

The young of the bear are produced in January or February, and

are from one to four in number. They are very small and covered

with grey hair, which coat they retain until they are one year of

age. The flesh of the bear is held in high esteem among hunters,

and when properly prepared is greatly esteemed by epicures.

The fat of the animal is much used under the title of Bear

grease, and is believed to be an infallible hair rejuvenator, and

therefore becomes a valuable article of commerce.

The bear generally hibernates during the winter, choosing some

comfortable residence which it has prepared in the course of the

summer, or perhaps betaking itself to the hollow of some tree.

Sometimes, in case of early snow, the track of the bears may be

distinguished, and if followed will probably lead to their dens,

in which they can be secured with logs until it is desired to kill


The black bear has a habit of treading in a beaten track, which

is easily detected by the eye of an experienced hunter or trapper,

and turned to good account in trapping the animal.

There are various modes of accomplishing this result. The bear

Dead-fall, described on page 17, is, perhaps, the most commonly

used, and the Pit-fall, page 31, and Giant Coop trap are also

excellent. The Gun trap and stone dead-fall, page 20, we also

confidently recommend. When a steel trap is used it requires the

largest size, especially made for the purpose. It should be supplied

with a short and very strong chain firmly secured to a very heavy

clog or grappling-iron page 147. If secured to a tree or other

stationary object, the captured animal is likely to gnaw or tear

his foot away, if, indeed, he does not break the trap altogether

by the quick tightening of the chain. The clog should be only heavy

enough to be an impediment, and may consist of a log or heavy

stone. The grappling-iron, however, is more often used in connection

with the bear trap. It is a common method in trapping the bear

to construct a pen of upright branches, laying the trap at its

opening, and covering it with leaves. The bait is then placed at

the back in such a position that the animal, on reaching for it,

will be sure to put his foot in the trap.

An experienced trapper soon discovers natural openings between

rocks or trees, which may be easily modified, and by the addition

of a few logs so improved upon as to answer his purpose as well as

a more elaborate enclosure, with much less trouble. Any arrangement

whereby the bear will be obliged to tread upon the trap in order

to secure the bait, is, of course, all that is required. The bait

may be hung on the edge of a rock five feet from the ground, and

the trap set on a smaller rock beneath it. He will thus be almost

sure to rest his forefoot on the latter rock in order to reach

the bait, and will thus be captured.

Another way is to set the trap in a spring of water or swampy

spot. Lay a lump of moss over the pan, suspending the bait beyond

the trap. The moss will offer a natural foot-rest, and the offending

paw will be secured.

Bears possess but little cunning, and will enter any nook or corner

without the slightest compunction when in quest of food. They are

especially fond of sweets, and, as we have said, are strongly attracted

by honey, being able to scent it from a great distance. On this

account it is always used, when possible, by trappers in connection

with other baits. These may consist of a fowl, fruit, or flesh of

any kind, and the honey should be smeared over it. Skunk cabbage

is said to be an excellent bait for the bear; and in all cases a

free use of the Oil of Anise page 152, sprinkling it about the

traps, is also advisable. Should the device fail, it is well to

make a trail (see page 153) in several directions from the trap,

and extending for several rods. A piece of wood, wet with Oil of

Anise, will answer for the purpose.

The general method of skinning the bear consists in first cutting

from the front of the lower jaw down the belly to the vent, after

which the hide may be easily removed. The hoop-stretcher page 275,

will then come into good use in the drying and preparing of the

skin for market.