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Are There Bears in Letchworth State Park?

As much as the kids and I enjoy visiting Letchworth State Park for its historical significance, beautiful sights, and myriad attractions, we also love it for its wildlife.

White-tailed deer, coyotes, and red foxes are frequent sights here, but what about bears?

Letchworth State Park has black bears, which occasionally appear in the park, usually in the spring, summer, or early autumn. You can track their prints if you know how to look for them but you should tread carefully.

This article will answer all your questions on bears in Letchworth, from when and where you might see them and how to track them, so check it out!

Does Letchworth State Park Have Bears? What Species?

The diversity of animal species at Letchworth State Park is nothing short of impressive. You can introduce your children to birds and mammals alike. If your kids are clamoring to see bears at Letchworth, can they?

Letchworth has at least one bear species, the black bear, known as the American black bear in full. Here’s a bit of information about this species.

American black bears are common throughout North America. The ones that live around New York weigh between 160 and 300 pounds, the former the average weight of a female bear and the latter the average weight of a male.

This isn’t much compared to other bear species, but seeing a black bear when strolling through Letchworth will still command your full attention and awe.

These bears hide in the understory, and the thicker and more inaccessible, the better. Black bears will also make their home where food is abundant. They live higher in the mountains, anywhere from 1,300 to 9,800 feet up.

Young American Black Bear, Ursus americanus

Black bears largely eat vegetation but will feast on carrion (dead animals). They’re also crepuscular, meaning they hunt for food when daylight is sparse, and fewer predators can see them.

Where Can You See Bears at Letchworth State Park?

Letchworth is a 14,000-acre park, so there’s a lot of land for black bears to roam, eat, and play. Of all the mentions I’ve seen of black bears spotted in the park, I’ve never heard of a specific location where they’re found.

However, knowing what you do now about where black bears make their home, you should expect to see them at higher elevations and in heavily vegetated areas.

While black bears are sometimes active during the day and night, they’re also likeliest to hunt for food before the sun rises and then again after it sets.

Therefore, seeing a black bear isn’t solely about where you go but the time of day.

When Are the Best Times of Year to See Black Bears at Letchworth?

The season you visit Letchworth State Park also matters if you and the young ones hope to spot some black bears.

The hibernation habits of black bears vary depending on the bear’s distribution. For example, only pregnant bears hibernate in warmer regions.

However, Letchworth experiences all four seasons, increasing the likelihood of black bears hibernating. Keeping in mind that park visitors and hunters who have spotted the bears have claimed sightings in the fall, is that when you should hope to see black bears yourself?

You might, but black bears tend to hibernate anywhere from October to December through March. You might be disappointed if you visit during those months wishing to spot a black bear.

I would recommend planning a springtime or summertime excursion, as the bears are well out of hibernation by then. 

How Do You Find Black Bears at Letchworth State Park?

Finding black bears at Letchworth is as much about luck as anything else. Black bears are singular creatures with natural camouflage, two factors working against you.

While I can’t say you’re guaranteed to see a bear at Letchworth, the following pointers might increase your chances.

Look up

Besides hunters, hikers are another frequent group to spot black bears at Letchworth. If you’re out hiking the trails, try scanning up in the tree branches as you go.

Black bears like to hide in trees. They’re very dexterous and excellent at climbing, so try looking up or hiking to a higher elevation at the park to see what you can find!

Visit early (or late)

Remember, black bears are crepuscular, so they will search for food when daylight is sparse. That’s another reason hikers frequently spot black bears. They’re usually up at the crack of dawn (or even earlier) to hit the trail, a fortuitous circumstance.

If you miss the early morning rush, you can always stay until around sunset. However, I’d recommend you have a place to camp, as you don’t want to wander around Letchworth (or any state park) at night.

Check for tracks

Fresh black bear footprint

Black bear tracks feature five clawed toes about 1.5 inches long apiece and a circular footpad. The claws are deeply curved.

You will usually only see one set of tracks at a time, attesting to the black bear’s solitary nature. Follow the tracks (not too deeply, of course) and see if you can spot a black bear.

Avoid weather extremes

Black bears aren’t fond of extreme weather on either side of the spectrum. Even though they’re active during the summer, they will laze away during hot, humid days.

The bears will also be nowhere to be found on very cold days, provided they’re not already hibernating.

Plan your visit for a more temperate weather period. You’ll still have a blast at Letchworth, even if you don’t see any bears!

Black Bear Safety Tips

Black bears are majestic animals you might be fortunate enough to see at Letchworth State Park, but remember, they’re still wild at the end of the day.

Please keep these safety tips in mind for yourself and your whole family!

Don’t get too close to the bear

Too many viral clips surface on social media these days of people getting close to animals. An animal is a living, breathing creature, not a photo prop.

Use your phone camera’s zoom mode to get a shot of the black bear without encroaching on its territory.

Remind the kids to stay back.

Avoid feeding the bear

Although leaving out food might seem like a good way to attract a black bear, you’re doing the bear more harm than good. It will acclimate to humans and eventually lose its fear of people.

That’s right, black bears are more afraid of you than you are of them! Refraining from feeding them will keep it that way.

This allows more Letchworth visitors to enjoy the bear, as it will want to keep its distance. By comparison, a bear that’s too curious is likelier to hurt someone, which will usually end in the bear losing its life when authorities get involved.

Here’s another great reason not to feed wild black bears: safety. A bear is not a docile creature, so its behavior is completely unpredictable. You could get attacked if you get too close. 

Never approach bear cubs

Although black bears are afraid of people, that doesn’t mean they won’t attack if necessary. For example, a bear will defend its brood if it perceives you as threatening the babies.  

Bear cubs are adorable, and your kiddos might be in love if they see a young cub, so caution them to keep away. The mama bear will attack.

Know how to handle a black bear attack

So what happens if a black bear does attack or seems on the verge of it? You should immediately grab your kids and hold them. Tell them not to scream, and you must relax.

Speak to the bear calmly. Hearing your voice might tell the bear this isn’t prey but a person.

If that doesn’t work, make yourself look imposing and large. Spread your arms and wave them about slowly.

It’s not a bad sign if the bear stands up, as it often means it’s just curious. The bear might smell you and then wander off.

If it doesn’t, never run, and especially don’t climb. Black bears can easily outclimb you. You also shouldn’t play dead with a black bear (only brown bears). Instead, use available objects to strike the bear’s muzzle and face; even your hands and feet are fine.

Try to get away to a secure spot and receive medical attention if required.