In the Field

How Well Can Bears Hear?

How well can bears hear?

Many wildlife enthusiasts have questions about the sensory powers of bears, such as how well they can see and how strong their sense of smell is. These are both topics that I’ve explored in past blog articles and videos, but another popular topic that people commonly inquire about is how well bears can hear.

A Bear’s Ear

First of all, let’s take a look at the topic of a bear’s ears in general. For most species of bears, their ears look much larger, more pronounced, and appear to protrude out of the top of their head when they’re young. As bears mature and their skulls continue to grow larger, however, their ears appear much smaller and protrude more off to the side of their heads. In fact, evaluating the size, shape, and width of a bear’s ears is one of the primary ways to judge a bear’s overall size and level of maturity while out in the field…which is another subject that I’ve addressed in a past video.

how big is that bear - how to field judge bears
Click here to watch the video.

Something fairly common among many species of bears is that their ears can get severely damaged due to fighting with other bears. This is yet another issue that I’ve explored in a past video about a bear who had both of his ears completely ripped off. I’m not exactly sure how having no, or partial ears affects the hearing of a bear, and there are no detailed studies done on the subject that I’m aware of, but I imagine it certainly can’t help much!

Holyfield the earless Alaskan brown grizzly bear of the Katmai coast
Click here to watch the video.

 

A Bear’s Sense of Hearing

The hearing ability of bears is excellent and quite comparable to that of a dog’s hearing. Bears can hear both exceptionally high and low pitches that far exceed the frequency range and sensitivity of humans. Depending on the species of bear, they can hear somewhere between 40 to 60,000 hertz, while we humans can generally hear between 20 and 20,000 hertz. Again, it varies somewhat between the different species of bears, but in general, researchers report that a bear’s hearing is about twice as strong as ours.

Similar to deer and other animals who are known for their great hearing capabilities, a bear’s ear can rotate around in different directions and hear noises independently with each ear. This unique ability helps them to focus in more intently while listening for the sounds of what may be a potential meal, or a source of danger.

Like other mammals, bears also use their ears to express the mood they’re in. If a bear’s ears are pointing forward or casually off to the side, it’s a sign that the bear is in a generally relaxed or curious mood. If a bear’s ears are laid back directly against the side of its heard, however, it’s a telltale sign that the bear is angry, annoyed, or agitated, and could possibly even become aggressive. So, if you’re around a bear that display’s this behavior, it’s time to slowly and carefully move on and give the bear plenty of space.

So that’s an overview of how well bears can hear. To watch the video version of this blog article, click here.

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