Maple Heights, United States

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10×14 watercolor enhanced colored pencil on Arches satin finish watercolor paper. Original available. Photographic reference from D. Cutrell.

As of 02-27-18, 3121 views and 7 favorited.

FEATURES: Painters Universe (Permanent Feature Page); All Creatures Great & Small; AMAZING Wildlife; LOVE THESE CREATURES; Local Critters; Amazing Wildlife MAMMALS;

The American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is the most common bear species native to North America. It lives throughout much of the continent, from northern Canada and Alaska south into Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This includes 41 of the 50 U.S. states and all Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island. Populations in the east-central and southern United States remain in the protected mountains and woodlands of parks and preserves, though bears will occasionally wander outside the parks’ boundaries and have set up new territories, in some cases on the margins of urban environments in recent years as their populations increase. Although there were probably once as many as two million black bears in North America long before European colonization, the population declined to a low of 200,000 as a result of habitat destruction and unrestricted hunting. By current estimates, more than 800,000 are living today on the continent.
Legal status Today, a major threat to the American black bear is poaching, or illegal killing, to supply Asian markets with bear galls and paws, considered to have medicinal value in China, Japan, and Korea. The demand for these parts also affects grizzly and polar bears. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty among more than 120 nations, provides measures to curb illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products across international boundaries, helping to protect the black bear from poaching. Perpetrators caught poaching or smuggling either item out of the United States or Canada may face very serious legal ramifications, and park rangers within both countries are charged with the protection of the bears under their jurisdictions up to and including arrest.

Black bears are abundant in most of the western states and in most of Canada, but its presence in the Midwest is uneven by comparison. For example, Ontario is home to about 100,000 bears, with at least as many in neighboring Quebec, while the Upper Midwest has a very healthy population with 30,000 bears in Minnesota alone. In contrast, nearby places like Iowa, Kansas and Illinois have virtually none. Most quintessentially Midwestern states have not had a native population of bears since the turn of the 19th century and many are still heavily used for agriculture today.

Most populations east of the Mississippi River are seeing a marked, steady increase in population: bears are moving back into places where they typically have been absent for over a century as suitable habitat has returned. In eastern states with heavily wooded areas, populations are growing rapidly; in North Carolina there were 11,000 bears at last count in 2004, Pennsylvania estimates 15,000 bears currently, New Jersey (a heavily urbanized state) estimated 3,529 in 2003, and even tiny Rhode Island has seen evidence of bears moving into areas where they haven’t been in decades. The Florida black bear has also seen increases in numbers in recent decades, in 2004 the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission estimated over 2,400 bears were in the state. Unfortunately, not all is well. Continued development may reduce connectivity between the already separated populations in Florida. The Louisiana subspecies continues to be at critically low levels, although several successful reintroduction projects have added bears to new areas of the state.

In Mexico, the indigenous black bear population is listed as endangered and is mostly limited to increasingly fragmented habitat in the mountainous northern parts of the country. Individuals from this area seem to have naturally recolonized parts of southern Texas and along the Rio Grande.

In 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Louisiana black bear subspecies as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, meaning it could be in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range in the near future. The American black bear is also protected by legislation in the affected states (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas), owing to its close resemblance to this subspecies. The Florida black bear was denied protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1998 and 2004 due to its adequate protection and management by the State of Florida.

  • Complete 11-03-2007 in 10.17 hours spread over 7 days

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Artwork Comments

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