It’s all About the Snout

Top Photo: An older photo of three of our bears.

Our three adult black bears can each be identified by muzzle only, though it may take a little practice. But first, how do you tell male from female in the Black Bear Exhibit? Male black bears (we have one, Gus) have longer, straighter legs, bigger heads and longer necks, and a more angular body shape. Females tend to be more rounded or rotund.

The classic black bear shape, male left, female right.

Even though the photo above is ten years old, and Gus has blonde highlights in his fur, you can see right away how angular Gus is as compared to Mimi. Gus is a typical male (though not as large in this photo as he will eventually become) with straight legs, long neck and big head, and with corners where Mimi is round. He’s a classic male black bear and she’s classic female black bear.

Now, how to tell the bears apart when they’re not standing right next to each other? If you can see their faces, you’re halfway there.

Gus has a Roman nose, a raised bridge on his nose, reminiscent of a mustang, the wild horse of the plains. His snout/muzzle is quite brown.

Gus and his Roman nose.

Besides two white lines on Mimi’s chest, she has a well defined triangular brown patch on her upper lip/muzzle. You’re most likely to mistake her for Yona, since they both have the rotund female body shape. The white marks on her chest are more often than not obscured from view, they’re difficult to see. Don’t count on seeing the white marks.

You don’t often see Mimi’s white-marked chest. But note the bright brown triangular area on her muzzle.
A closer look at Mimi’s face with well defined light brown triangle on side of muzzle.

Yona is smaller than both Gus and Mimi though that’s difficult to distinguish when she’s by herself, which she often is. Look at her snout. It’s the darkest of all three adult bears in the enclosure. She has a brownish triangular shape on her upper lip/muzzle, but it’s diffuse and not as bright and well defined as Mimi’s.

Yona has the darkest snout of the bears. The brown area on her muzzle is ill defined.

Our new black bear, which is getting close to her first birthday, is easy to pick out from the crowd. She’s much smaller than the others, though she’s about 20 pounds heavier now than when the picture below was taken (11/17/21).

At this time, there’s no mistaking Little Bear for any of the others (Gus on right).

And that, is all you need to know to identify the individual bears in our Black Bear Exhibit. Stay tuned for any changes.

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