Bears use the same vocalizations with humans as with other bears: jaw-popping, woofing, low grumbles and moans. These sounds are rarely a sign of aggression, more often a signal that the bear is concerned, nervous or merely upset at what’s going on. If a bear is woofing at you, popping its jaws or moaning it is telling you it is upset or troubled and is communicating to you to move on. Bear cubs bawl. All sounds and text are the copyright property of the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely, MN and cannot be used without express permission.
WOOFING AND CHOMPING
Bears blow and clack their teeth when they are afraid. When this is done in response to being startled by a person, it appears to be a defensive threat, but they also do it when they scare themselves by almost falling from a tree. Watch video of a black bear wuffing.
CUB AND MOTHER
The sounds of a young cub with its mother. The cub is making the cooing sounds and the mother grunts, which is a common sound mothers make to cubs.
CUB DISTRESS CALL
This is a distress sound made by a fearful cub. This sound is commonly made when a cub is separated from its mother. This recording was made while a researcher examined a cub out in the field. The cub was soon released back to the mother.
CONVERSING BEAR FAMILY
This mother black bear is moving her three-month-old cubs from their den to a white pine tree to begin life outside the natal den. The mother is grunting her concern while the cubs are voicing little squeals of mild distress.
When bears are very scared and in a subordinate role they moan. This bear was in a barrel-trap, which is a form of live trap. They also moan when they have escaped up trees or are being threatened by a nearby dominant bear.
Black bear cubs make motor-like pleasure sounds as they nurse. Similar to a cat’s purring, bears make this pleasure sound when they are especially comfortable, nursing, or eating a special treat. Adults make this sound with a deeper voice.
This audio clip is of a female bear threatening a male that is competing for her food. The main sound is the pulsing threat. A higher pitched moan of fear is heard briefly from the subordinate male.
Banner photo courtesy: The Wildlife Research Institute