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Are there Bears on Long Island? (Black, Grizzly, Polar)

Bears don’t live on the territory of Long Island today. However, they do live in the surrounding areas like upstate New York (except New York City and Long Island), New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. 

Black bear in meadow
Black bears are common in upstate New York, but are no longer living on Long Island.

According to estimates, New York upstate has around 6000 to 8000 bears, and half of them live in the Adirondacks. Another third is in the Catskills whereas the remaining ones are located in the west and central part of the state. 

Despite the rise of the black bear population in the last twenty years and the consequent encroaching into human habitat, Long Island doesn’t seem to have this problem. In fact, there are different animal species that can be spotted there, but not the bear.

Does this mean that no species of bear has ever roamed the territory of Long Island? -This article explores different species of bears and their association to Long Island.

Were there ever Black Bears on Long Island?

Despite data showing that black bears once roamed Long Island, nowadays, it’s very rare to spot one. 

The data indicates that there were still some black bears in the 80s on Long Island whereas their peak was recorded in the 70s. The years-long monitoring of their population showed that it grew from a small number of bears present after logging stopped in the 70s. 

However, there were only 22 bears on the island in the spring of 1982, a result of the changes in plant communities and increased clear-cut logging. The population started declining after female progeny was no longer accepted into the breeding population, somewhere around 1976.

The black bear no longer had the needed habitat to survive. Long Island logging started at the turn of the century and by the 60s, around 44 percent of the trees were cut down. Unlike grizzly bears, black bears are known to prefer dense forests and mountainous regions. 

The loss of trees also diminished the production of berries- a personal favorite of the American black bear.

Consequently, the black bear started emigrating from Long Island in search of better food availability and habitat. Black bears today live in North America. The black bear is considered the most common bear in that region that lives in forests and is known to be a great tree climber. 

It can also be spotted near swamps and mountains. Despite the name, their fur color isn’t exclusively black. It can actually be blue-gray, blue-black, cinnamon, brown, and even white.

This stunning footage shows the amazing wildlife that roams the forests and mountains of Long Island:

Were there ever Grizzly Bears on Long Island? 

The brown and grizzly bears don’t live on Long Island. The grizzly bear lives in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and maybe the south of Colorado, as well as western Canada. 

Throughout history, these bears’ range spread from Alaska to Mexico and from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. However, with the western expansion, their numbers dropped significantly. 

Grizzlies’ habitat is that of a more open area like meadows, prairies, woodlands, but also forests and areas near streams and rivers. Generally speaking, grizzlies seek dense cover for shelter during the day. 

And, being apex predators, they’re solitary by nature and have no natural predators. Although Long Island has no grizzly bears, it’s the habitat of amazing wildlife species such as coyotes, deer, and birds.

This video shows how grizzly bears behave in their natural habitat:

Were there ever Polar Bears on Long Island?

Polar bears have never lived on Long Island because they have a totally different habitat-they live in the Arctic region on ice-covered waters. Genetic evidence shows that they’re descendants of the Irish brown bears that lived during the last Ice Age.

According to the Guardian, they may have moved into today’s Ireland when the region had much cooler temperatures than it does now. The polar bear is the largest carnivore in the world and it’s an expert in swimming and preying on seals.

Although there are species of seals living in Long Island waters, the polar bear couldn’t survive there due to the warmer temperatures. This animal’s biology and body are adjusted to the harsh temperatures in the Arctic region that can drop below -58 degrees F in winter!

The warming of the planet is also a threat to the survival of this species. With the ongoing melting of the ice covers, polar bears are pushed southward in search of other sources of food, causing them to be more exposed to human contact as well as contact with grizzly bears.

This interesting video shows how the majestic polar bear hunts seal: 

Where Can Bears Be Spotted by People Who Live on Long Island?

People who live in Long Island or are visiting it and want to go bear spotting, upstate New York is the closest option. There, the bear lives in forests where there is a mix of open areas and wetlands, as well as in farmland and cornfields. 

Generally speaking, black bears are shy and elusive. People learn how to look for bear tracks in the soft ground like mud and near streams. The best time with the highest chance of spotting bears there is in spring and summer, usually at dawn or dusk. 

Read More: How To Scare Away a Bear

This is because they’re actively looking for food at that period. Although it’s rarer, they can also be spotted in the day. The American black bear is the second biggest mammal in New York State, with the moose being the largest. 

Beach at sunset
Today, the forest that once covered Long Island has been mostly replaced with farmland and human settlements.

Conclusion

Although there are data indicating that the American black bear once lived on the territory of Long Island, today, there are no species of bears living there. 

The decline in black bear population in the region and consequently, the emigration of the remaining numbers, is believed to have been caused by tree-cutting and reduction in pivotal food sources of this bear.

When it comes to other species of bears like grizzlies and polar bears, there is no evidence of these two species ever lived on Long Island. The grizzly lives elsewhere like Alaska, Idaho, and western Canada, mostly in woodlands and prairies. 

On the other hand, the polar bear has a totally different habitat, i.e., the Arctic, a place for the strongest animal species because of the harsh cold. The body of the polar bear is equipped for the temperature and they couldn’t survive in warmer areas like Long Island. 

Despite no bears on the territory of Long Island, there is still stunning wildlife to be spotted there, including deer, birds, and coyotes. 

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