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National Park Quiz 60: Bears

A curious black bear. Photo by Matt and Bess via Flickr.

1. True or false? One of the densest concentrations of black bears in North America can be found in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

2. True or false? According to Indian legend, the Great Spirit created the Manitou Islands – now part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore -- to help three bears fish in Lake Michigan.

3. True or false? Polar bears can be seen on the premises of some National Park System units.

4. True or false? A black bear may have a coat that is nearly identical in color to that of a grizzly bear.

5. True or false? A backcountry hiker threatened by a grizzly bear should try to appear big, loud, and aggressive.

6. True or false? The pepper sprays manufactured for police and self defense use effectively deter bear attacks.

7. True or false? A bear's sense of smell is better than a bloodhound's.

8. True or false? In Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and other NPS units that have both grizzly bears and black bears, the two species inhabit the same areas and are often seen together.

9. There’s a good chance that a person visiting the Bear Valley Visitor Center for the first time will also walk the
a. Freedom Trail
b. Earthquake Trail
c. Anhinga Trail
d. Appalachian Trail

10. The ______ brothers conducted the pioneering research on grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park.
a. Krutch
b. Leopold
c. Wetherill
d. Craighead

Extra Credit Question:

11. In October 2003, a brown bear killed Timothy Treadwell and a female companion in their camp at
a. Grand Teton National Park
b. Glacier National Park
c. Katmai National Park
d. Yellowstone National Park

Super Bonus Question:

12. In the short-lived TV action series Sierra, which featured rangers in Yosemite National Park, the bear that provided comic relief was named
a. Cruncher
b. Wyatt
c. Diablo
d. Gentle Ben


(1) True. Stockton Island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has up to 35 black bears, and that’s a density of a little more than two bears per square mile.

(2) False. Legend has it that the two Manitous mark the place where two bear cubs drowned as they tried to swim with their mother from the Wisconsin side of the lake where a great forest fire had forced them to take to the water. The great dunes on the mainland shore mark the spot where the mother bear fell asleep as she waited in vain for her lost cubs.

(3) True. Polar bears are occasionally seen in Alaska’s Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument.

(4) True. Black bears in the eastern states usually have black coats, but those in the western states commonly have chocolate brown, cinnamon brown, or blonde coats similar to many grizzlies. When identifying bears it’s best to look for more reliable characteristics, such as the prominent shoulder hump that grizzlies have and black bears don’t.

(5) False. That’s a good tactic for dealing with a threatening black bear, but don’t try it with a grizzly. With a grizzly it’s best to maintain a non-threatening posture. Just try to be calm, cool, and collected.

(6) False. The pepper spray (OC spray) products designed for use on humans are ineffective against bears. Bear pepper spray canisters contain much more of the active ingredient (Oleoresin Capsicum) and have special design features that greatly boost the potency and effective range of the spray.

(7) True. Blacks bears have what many consider to be the best sense of smell of any mammal. Bears are thought to be able to detect faint odors about seven times better than bloodhounds can.

(8) False. Black bears prefer forested areas and are most active at night, whereas grizzlies like more open areas and are most active during the day. Throw in the fact that black bears avoid grizzlies, and it’s easy to see why the two species are not commonly seen together.

(9) b – The Bear Valley Visitor Center is near the main entrance to Point Reyes National Seashore. The nearby Earthquake Trail is one of the Seashore’s most heavily used facilities, not least because it affords views of many interesting things related to the area's seismic activity and the famed San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.

(10) d -- Brothers Frank and John Craighead conducted the classic studies of Yellowstone grizzlies beginning in 1959.

(11) c -- In October 2003, a brown bear killed "eco-warrier"/documetary film maker Timothy Treadwell and his grilfriend Amie Huguenard in their camp at Kaflia Bay in Katmai National Park.

(12) a -- The mischevious bear in the Sierra TV series was named Cruncher because of his habit of crunching trash containers so they could more easily be pulled from beneath lids designed to be bearproof.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Yikes! 12 out of 12 (a first), although #2 was a lucky guess. And I'm supposed to be a botanist.

As an aside on #10, Lance Craighead got a PhD on grizzly bears and continues the work of his dad & uncle with a small research institute out of Bozeman.

Dammit, Tomp! First you point out a mistake I made in the Glacial Lake Missoula Flood article, and now you get a perfect 12 for 12 on a quiz I thought was bulletproof. Are you after my job?

Is #11 the guy from the Grizzly Man "documentary?"

Yes, Timothy Treadwell was the guy from the Grizzly Man documentary.

Nope and nope. Ice Age Floods Trail wasn't a correction, more of an addition or amendment. This was the first quiz I aced, and a couple of the previous quizzes were more related to my "expertise" and still tripped me up.

question 13:
How many species of bears are found in NPS units, and how many units does each species occur in? The first is easy (it even has 2 "correct" answers); the second is a guessing game. I'll bet 30 units: do you want over or under? I'll sneak that query in the next time I've got the mammal database open.

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