In this article, we’re going to explore the topic of bear sounds and communication vocalizations. In many popular movies and TV shows, bears are often portrayed roaming through the woods making all kinds of wild, ferocious noises. In fact, it’s typically the same handful of bear sound effects that are used over and over again in all those different movies and shows. Those sound effects are essentially used to make a bear who in reality is just minding its own business, to appear bloodthirsty and savage!
In general, while the bears of North America communicate a great deal through body language and even scent, they don’t make all that much noise and are mostly quiet. Among the noises they do make, they can vary slightly among the different bear species, with the black bear being the most vocal, and they use many of the same sounds for communicating among themselves as well as toward humans.
Contrary to what’s often portrayed in all those movies and tv shows, most of the common sounds that bears make are indications of nervousness, fear, or agitation, and not so much an expression of aggression. Bear sounds can range in volume and intensity depending on the situation, and most commonly include the sounds described below. (Please watch the video to hear the bear sounds)
Low volume grunts are used by bears as sort of a friendly way of saying hello to other bears in the area and they’re also commonly used as a signal given by a sow to her cubs, such as when she senses danger and is commanding them to climb a tree or take cover.
Huffing, Woofing, & Snorting
Bears make a fairly loud, sharp, snorting, woofing, or huffing sound by blowing a large breath of air through their nostrils and mouth. They do this when they’re expressing fear or agitation and sometimes as a prelude to possibly becoming aggressive.
Humming or Purring
Cubs often make a content humming or purring sound when they’re nursing with their mom or enjoying a favorite food. Adult bears also make this sound when enjoying a tasty treat, though at a much lower register.
Teeth Clacking and Jaw Popping
When bears feel threatened or scared, they sometimes pop their jaws together and make a teeth clacking sound. This is also commonly done as a distress signal that sows use to alert their cubs of danger. These sounds are commonly misinterpreted by humans as an aggressive, immediate threat, but again, it’s mostly an expression of fear or the bear feeling threatened.
Bawling or Screaming
Cubs that are in distress, such as when separated from their mother or in physical pain, make a loud, high-pitched screaming or bawling sound. Adult bears make a similar sound when they’re in pain, though at a lower pitch than a cub.
Moaning and Growling
Adult bears make a distinct moaning sound when they’re expressing fear. These fear-induced moans are also mistaken for the growls that are often associated with bears, especially when done so at a low pitch.
Bellowing and Roaring
When bears fight amongst themselves, such as when getting in a serious, highly aggressive altercation over a female during the breeding season, they make a loud, bellowing sound which is sometimes accompanied by the famous roar which Hollywood loves to depict. The roaring sounds can be a combination of expressing fear or a stern warning to back off, and in reality, while a bear’s roar is loud, it not anywhere near as loud as the true roar of a lion.
So there you have it, that’s an overview of the different vocalizations of the bears of North America. Check out the video to see and hear more…