Bears have been hunted since the prehistoric period both for their meat and fur. Their meat is a source of food and was once called venison. Today, it’s just known as bear meat and venison refers only to the meat of elk and deer.
Although consuming bear meat may seem new and unusual to some people, in the world of hunting, bear meat is loved and popular, particularly the meat of the black bear.
This article explores the history of bear hunting and different species of bears that are hunted for their meat.
Is the Black Bear Hunted for Meat?
Black bear meat is a traditional food in America. For hundreds of years, North America’s native tribes, settlers, and frontiersmen have consumed it.
Although it’s not an invasive species, black bear populations have been on the rise in different parts of the northern half of the US and encroach human territory, so their hunting is also done to keep the populations at bay.
According to Dialed in Hunter, black bear meat tastes somewhat stronger than beef. It also has a denser texture than beef. Bears’ muscles are tighter so it’s best for slow-cooked meals like roasts, chili, and stews that give the necessary time for the muscle fibers to dissolve.
Black bear’s back straps are often used for steaks and burgers. Cooking bear meat is recommended to be done at 170 degrees F to ensure trichinosis (parasitic worm) doesn’t survive.
Read More: Black Bear vs Brown Bear
Is the Brown Bear Hunted for Meat?
According to the waterfowl ecologist from the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, Brandt Meixell, brown bears in Alaska and North America have long been hunted for their meat, which is said to taste similar to black bear meat.
Not everyone agrees that all brown bear meat is good. The coastal brown bear is usually avoided due to its unpleasant fish odor, compared to inland bears which taste more similar to black bears.
Some describe bear meat as greasy, but there are experts who note that this depends on the cut and the proper trimming of fat prior to cooking.
Bear meat has a bad reputation since the bears are carriers of the Trichinella roundworm.
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Is the Polar Bear Hunted for Meat?
Although there are countries like the US where hunting of the polar bear is banned, polar bears have long been hunted for meat and considered a nutritious food source. They’re still hunted and consumed by Alaskan natives.
Unfortunately, the polar bear population is at high risk of extinction, due to numerous factors like oil spills, climate change, over-hunting, self-defense kills, etc. This is why many laws have been created to help protect the polar bear in all of the five Arctic states.
The hunting of polar bears is regulated through quotas on the number of bears that are allowed to be hunted and age and sex restrictions.
The meat from polar bears is highly nutritious and rich in iron and protein. The Inuit consume it for vitamin A and Omega-3 acids that are associated with a lower risk of heart illness.
The Inuit have been hunting polar bears for generations and don’t just use them for food, but for materials like blankets, rugs, and clothes. Once upon a time, the fat of polar bears was used as fuel while their teeth and claws have been used for jewelry and art.
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What is Bear Meat Like?
The meat from bears isn’t as red as venison or cattle meat, but darker. Bear meat is abundant in nutrients and fibers and has a chewy texture, similar to beef. When it comes to the meat’s taste, it varies depending on what the bear has consumed.
For example, bears that eat more plants will provide meat that’s delicious whereas meat of bears that have eaten fish is usually avoided.
Is Bear Hunting Justified?
Nowadays, bears are usually hunted to control their population control and not for meat or fur. Cruel methods of hunting such as bear traps are prohibited in most countries and there are strict laws in place to ensure the population remains at a healthy level.
Bear hunting is often done for control of the population in certain regions, according to Humane Society. Wildlife managers claim it helps decrease the risk of conflicts among bears and humans.
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Different states have their own ethical bear hunting procedures that hunters need to follow, including state permits, appropriate season to do it, allowed hunting methods, and a maximum number of bears that can be killed.
However, humanity’s awareness about bear hunting wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, in the 1800s and 1900s, hunters used guns, traps, and poisons to kill bears.
As the years went by, people’s knowledge and approach to bear hunting changed. Today, the focus is more on coexisting with bears, rather than killing them just for the sake of elimination.
Read More: Are Bears Endangered?
For centuries, people have hunted bears for meat and materials. For some, bear meat is an acquired taste whereas, for others, it’s a nutritious and delicious food source that’s somewhat similar to beef in texture.
Of the major species of bears, the meat of the black bear is praised as the tastiest due to this bear’s high consumption of plants.
This isn’t the case with coastal brown bear meat which is claimed to have a fishy smell due to the bear’s fish consumption.
With some species like the polar bear that’s at a high risk of extinction, there are strict rules on who can do the hunting and when.
Without a doubt, regardless of the bear species, the future of bear hunting can only be preserved with the utmost respect for the outdoors and maintenance of hunting ethics.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.