Arkansas's Black Bear (FBCEC)

Summary:

Participants will learn about the biology, habitat and behavior of black bears. They will see black bear scat and track replicas as well as a black bear skull and skins. Older participants will play a game from Project WILD that will teach them about food needs and habitats of bears. Younger groups will make a bear “home.”

Grade Level:

K - 12

Recommended Setting:

Any large area

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484

Duration:

45 minutes - 1 hour

Suggested Number of Participants:

K - 2: Up to 24; 3 - 12: 20 - 40

Special Conditions:

For large groups, weather must be suitable for outdoor game.

Objectives:

  • Identify a black bear track, skin, skull and scat.
  • Describe the habitat and behaviors of a black bear.
  • Identify the food needs of the black bear.

Key Terms*:

Behavior

Habitat

Replica

Scat

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

  • Arkansas’s Black Bears PowerPoint presentation (optional)
  • Paper bags and bear photocopies (for younger participants)
  • Skin, track, scat, skull and photos of black bear (Use what is available.)
  • (An option for bear tracks is to use takeout boxes, sand, zip-lock bags, plaster of Paris, water, cups, spray bottles, paper towels and track replicas.)

Background:

Arkansas’s only native bear species is the black bear, which was once so plentiful that Arkansas was nicknamed “The Bear State.” However, the black bear almost disappeared from Arkansas mainly due to human changes to its habitat and excessive hunting. Fortunately, they have recovered and still roam many areas of the state. While strong and powerful, they are shy and eat many kinds of foods.

Procedure:

All Grades
  1. Show several photos (or PowerPoint presentation) of black bears in Arkansas. Talk about the history of the black bear in the state. Ask why the state used to be called the “Bear State” and what might have contributed to the bear’s decline.
  2. Show a bear skin, skull, track replica and scat replica. Let students hold the items. Discuss these items and how they help the bear survive.
Grades 3 and Up
  • Play How Many Bears Can Live in the Forest from Project WILD. Chart and discuss the results of each round.

Grades K - 2

  1. Display several items that could be eaten by bears.
  2. Talk about suitable habitats for black bear. Show them photographs of areas bears might live. Talk about what bears do in winter.
  3. Give each participant one paper bag and one coloring sheet of a bear. Tell them they will be designing a home for their bear. First, have them cut off the top two inches of the bag. Then, they will open the bag and cut a hole starting at the seam of the bottom of the bag. The hole will need to be about three inches tall and two inches wide, shaped like an upside down U. Staple or tape the top of the bag together and glue greenery on each side of the hole.
  4. The participants can then color their bear and place it inside its new home.

Modifications:

  • The participants can make plaster bear tracks to take home as well. (See FBCEC lesson Making Tracks.)
  • Take the participants on a “bear home hunt” in a pre-selected area. Have them identify factors that meet bear habitat requirements (food sources, water, shelter).
  • Read one or two Native American tales involving a bear and invite participants to write their own bear tale.

Review:

  • Explain how a bear’s teeth are adapted to its diverse diet.
  • Describe several physical and behavioral characteristics of a black bear.
  • Describe an ideal bear habitat.
  • Identify factors that led to the Arkansas’s black bear decline in the early 1900s.

Resources:

  • Living with Arkansas Bear. CD Rom available from Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
  • Wildlife and Conservation Bear: http://www.agfc.com/wildlife-conservation/mammals/bear-mammals.aspx
  • Goad, David, Pat Knighten and Heather McClure. Arkansas Black Bear – A Teacher’s Guide for Kindergarten through Sixth Grades. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Glossary:

Behavior – an animal’s response to a stimulus

 

Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs

 

Replica – a precise reproduction of an object


Scat
  –  an animal's fecal droppings, especailly a wild anima