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There are 16 subspecies of Ursus americanus, the black bear. The Wikipedia article describes their different physical characteristics and geographical distributions, but not differences in temperament.

The article discusses attacks on humans, and attributes the majority to habituation to people and easy access to food. When access to food was made more difficult, bear attacks dropped off sharply.

Is there any analysis or evidence -- even informed anecdotal -- that suggests that any subspecies is more aggressive or more easily provoked to aggression than another? Can any differences be attributed to the frequency and nature of exposure to people? I read one article a long time ago in connection with an attack on several male teenagers that said that eastern black bears were more aggressive than western; this is all I remember about it.

My first hand knowledge is limited to Sierra and (to a lesser extent Colorado Rocky Mtn) black bears. None has behaved in the least aggressively towards me, but I still respect them. Should I be even more respectful elsewhere?

  • I've never heard of or seen any difference in temperament between black bears on the different coasts. Most of my outdoors experience is in the West and Southwest, but also years ago I did spend a little time in the Appalachians. I've encountered several bears while driving, some were small, some were large, - in all cases they ran away as quickly as possible. – Michael Martinez Aug 12 '15 at 17:47
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All research done by the National Park Services attribute black bear aggression to how people affect the bear's foraging behavior. Bears are conditioned by where, when, and how they acquire food. If they find food nearby and easily accessible from dumpsters and tourists that feed them as if they're in a zoo, they begin to associate humans with easily accessible food. Once they become familiar with people they fear them less and they become more aggressive and unpredictable. This behavior usually develop in cubs depending whether the mother is conditioned to forage in moderate to heavily developed areas.

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