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NORTH AMERICAN FUR AUCTIONS

Wild Fur Pelt Handling Manual

1

© 2009

NORTH AMERICAN FUR AUCTIONS
w w w.naf a.c a

65 Skyway Ave
Toronto, ON M9W 6C7
t.416.675.9320
f.416.675.6865

567 Henry Ave
Winnipeg, MB R3A 0T8
t.204.774.1705
f.204.943.2941

205 Industrial Park Dr
Stoughton, WI 53589
t.608.205.9200
f.608.205.9210

BOARD SIZES

TURNING PELTS

Unlike ranched Mink and Fox boards, there are no standard
sizes. Each section or region of wild fur-bearers generally
are different in size. NAFA requires the pelt handler to use
stretchers that are generally acceptable throughout the
trade. A ¼" or ½" or more in width variance generally
doesn’t matter. Most board sizes “fit” most fur-bearers.
In other instances they do not. Because of its size, a coat
Raccoon would not fit on Raccoon boards for the northern
areas because the size differences are too great.

Fur-out pelts are initially dried leather-out until the head
is still pliable, then turned fur-out. Be careful to avoid
tearing the leather. The worst tearing occurs in the
shoulder area of the pelt and the tear usually runs up and
over the shoulders. Tearing in the butt usually runs in a
straight line up the back of the pelt. Provided the armpits
and the legs are dry, leave the legs inside the pelt when it
is turned. This virtually eliminates tears in the shoulder
and does not affect the grade of the pelt. Any moist spots,
like in the armpit area, can be treated with a preservative
like Borax.

If there was one concern about boards, it would be that
they are at times too wide in the shoulder and butt areas.
The reverse is also true where boards, in order to gain
length, become too narrow in these spots. Fur graders
make adjustments to size when they are grading when
they see pelts that are clearly too wide or narrow for the
size they are grading. The “pencil” stretched pelts are
usually dropped a size, while short, wide pelts are bumped
into the next size up. Recommended board sizes are
included in this manual.

DRYING PELTS
Occasionally, pelts are dried too quickly. The leather looks
and feels stiff and board-like. The leather is tough to bend
and if dried too quickly at very high temperatures,
the skin cooks. When bent, the leather actually cracks.
Areas where the leather has burnt will not dress and will
be greatly reduced in value.
Dry pelts relatively slowly between temperatures of
55°F–70°F and as the pelts dry, wipe off excess oils that
appear. If drying at lower temperatures, a fan should be
used to circulate the air. Failure to do this can result in
tainted pelts. Do not direct air flow towards pelts since
this may result in drying too quickly.

4

STORING PELTS
After pelts have been removed from the boards they
should be hung in a cool place out of the reach of animals.
Smaller pelts can be stored in the freezer to prevent the
pelts from going stale as in the case with wild Mink which
oxidize easily. Otter pelts must be kept in a cool location
to prevent singeing. Pelts stored in areas that are too
warm or in the light will turn stale. Pelts stored over the
summer should also be kept in a cool, dark area or
preferably wrapped and stored in a freezer.

TRANSPORTING PELTS
Keep bags of fur dry. Rain or wet snow can damage pelts.
Do not transport Otter in heated areas. They can singe,
so avoid putting them in a vehicle with the heater on.
Do not fold tails of wild Mink into their inspection
windows. The guard hairs have “memory” and will not
straighten out when the grader inspects the fur.
Keep leather-out pelts separate from fur-out pelts.
Pack Beaver flat, fur-to-fur, without rolling pelts. Make
sure pelts have completely dried, particularly those which
have been frost-dried. Beaver castor is shipped in bags,
onion bag, or cardboard boxes, but never in plastic bags.

WOLVES, BE ARS AND WOLVERINES

USES

HARVESTING

Wolves, Bears, and Wolverines are used in the fur trade for
trim and for fur garments. Wolf and Wolverine trim is
primarily used for parka hood, collar and sleeves. In the
far north the Wolverine is of primary importance due to
its frost-free capabilities. The Inuit parka trim utilizes the
front and back paws of the Wolverine. The mens’ parkas
use the back legs and paws in a continuous strip over the
back, the paws hang down below the parka hood.
The ladies’ use the front feet and legs, cuffs and childrens’
parkas use the rest of the remaining pelt. Some highquality Bear pelts find their way to the manufacture of the
Busby (the military full-dress fur hat worn by the British
Guardsman) for the Queen’s Guard in England.
These three species also find a use in the Taxidermy Trade.
Rug and full mounts require high-quality, complete pelts,
prepared with extra care and to high specifications.
Pelts suitable for taxidermy are often referred to as
specimens. It is this special care and preparation we will
concentrate on for suitable specimens.

The quality and care of pelts begins with the harvesting of
the animal. A poor-quality pelt can never get better,
however a high-quality prime pelt can be downgraded
through poor harvesting techniques, care of the animal in
transportation, thawing if frozen, and poor pelt
preparation. In any case the pelt should be removed and
processed as expeditiously as possible.

Even though some high-quality select pelts are handled
properly for the taxidermy trade, the fur trade may
consume these. It will depend on the demands at the time
of sale.
Smaller, off-coloured, damaged or lesser-grade pelts will
very seldom be sold for taxidermy purposes and will be
used for fur trim and garments. You need to assess your
pelt before you process it for market. The fur trade does
not use ears, toes, and lips, thus some of the extra care
described in the foregoing would be a lot of extra work
which will not benefit you in any way. This lesser-grade of
pelt, even though complete, may be graded in with like
incomplete pelts suitable only for trim purposes.
38

Animals should be harvested as humanly as possible,
using up-to-date trapping systems in compliance with
Provincial or State Regulations. Wolves are harvested
primarily in locking or power snares and padded jaw traps
designed for trapping wolves. Wolverines are easily
harvested in quick kill Conibear type traps or power
snares. Foothold traps are not recommended for this
species. Bears are best harvested by shooting,
however some jurisdictions do allow the use of foot snares.
In all cases it is recommended that traps be checked daily
for live holding devices and at least every three days for
killing devices. In temperatures above freezing killing
traps should be checked daily to avoid fur damage
and taints.

PRE-PELTING CARE
Some special care is required, as with all pelts, prior to
pelting and fur preparation. All animals that are frozen
should be thawed out where the temperature is suitable to
thaw it properly. A light fan in the room for air circulation
will speed up the drying and thawing process. A warm or
hot environment is not desirable. Thawing and drying out
of wet pelts is best achieved by hanging the specimen with
the head towards the top. All dirt and any blood on the
pelt should be removed by washing with cold water.
Washing of the pelt can be done before or after the pelting

process, a very mild detergent can be used (without bleach
or any other added cleaning agents). Brushing the fur with
a fur brush or fur comb prior to pelting will help to remove
any dirt, blood or loose hair.

PELT REMOVAL

NOSE
The nose, when cut from the carcass, should be cut in a
manner so as to leave about a half inch of cartilage
attached to the pelt. This ensures all of the visible inside
nose channel remains for taxidermy purposes.

Although some Wolves and Wolverine are handled open,
(particularly in the West Arctic) cased is the preferred
method for these two species. Bears are handled open.
Special care must be taken in the cuts around the eyes,
ears, feet, lips and nose to ensure the pelt is useable for
taxidermy purposes.

TAIL

FEET

All fat and excess meat left on the pelt from the skinning
process must be removed to avoid taint and grease burn.
This is best done with a two-handed fleshing tool and a
fleshing beam, scraping from the head end towards the
rear. Fine sawdust (do not use plywood sawdust) on the
pelt will help to keep grease out of the fur. Care must be
taken to remove all of the fat and meat but not to overscrape and expose hair roots. Some prefer to do the
scraping with a one-hand scraper or dull knife directly on
the pelt board, or with bears, as they tack it out. A final
scraping with a one-handed tool when the pelt is boarded
will remove any small bits of fat and meat missed or any
sawdust that may have been used in the fleshing process.
Yes, please do remove all that sawdust you used when
fleshing on your fleshing beam.

Cuts should be made around one side of the footpads
leaving the pad intact in one whole piece. The rest of the
paw is skinned out glove-like. The toes are skinned down
to the last knuckle and then cut off at that point.
This leaves the claws on with all of the meat and bone that
may cause taint damage to be removed. Do not split down
each individual toe to the nail.

EARS
Special care must be taken that the ear is cut close to the
head ensuring all of the inside ear cartilage remains with
the ear. The ears are then turned. This is the process
whereby you case skin the ear so to speak, turn it inside
out skinning between the cartilage and the outside ear.
Some use a blunt object such as a dull rounded putty knife
and work it gently between the cartilage and the skin,
others us a small pointed knife to achieve this chore, or a
combination of both. Excess pieces of meat, fat or cartilage
are to be trimmed off. Ears are especially subject to taint.

EYES
When cutting around the eyes ensure the entire eyelid
(the black skin around the eyes) is left intact on the pelt.
No other special care is required, as they will dry properly
in the pelt drying process.

LIPS
All of the inside lip should be left intact. On Bears, which
are skinned open, the initial cut should leave the bottom
lip to one side of the pelt. Do not split the bottom lip up
the middle. The lips of wolf, Wolverine, and Bear must
then be split. This involves cutting between the inner lip
and the outer skin and will allow for proper drying.

The tailbone must be removed and the tail split right to
the tip.

FLESHING

Trim any excess bits of meat and cartilage from around the
head, ears, eyes, nose, and feet that may have been missed
in the skinning process.

BOARDING AND DRYING
Bears are best tacked out on a wall or on two sheets of
plywood on the floor. Nails are spaced about 2" apart all
the way around the Bear pelt. Place a nail at the side of the
nose, one at the base of the tail, and one in each foot so as
to get a rough size and shape. Now start at the head and
tack out evenly, working your way down each side and
around the legs and feet, following the natural shape of
the pelt. Once the pelt is tacked out, raise it a bit on the
nails to give some circulation under the fur.
Cased Wolf and Wolverine are placed on a pelt board fur-in
and tacked with push-pins around the base and down each
side if the tail. The split lips should also be tacked out to
properly dry. Ears are turned inside out. Drying boards are
placed up inside the front legs and tacked out. A Mink or
Marten drying board will work well to tack the front legs
out. A belly wedge board is used so the pelt can be easily
removed from the board.

39

Care should be taken to properly dry the inside of the
paws. A loose wad of newspaper can be stuffed inside the
paw to hold it open in the initial part of the drying process,
however remove this once the paw has started to dry and
holds its shape. Coarse salt can be used in the paws, ears,
and around the lips to insure no hair slip occurs in these
areas. However, any salt used should be removed within
two days so these parts will properly dry. A vacuum
cleaner works well to remove the coarse salt. And yes, even
the little handheld battery ones work for this.
Dry the pelt in a cool, well-ventilated room. The use of a
fan for air circulation will greatly improve drying
conditions. After two or three days, but while the pelt is
still pliable, it is removed from the board and turned furout. Setting the pelt outside for a couple of hours, not in
the sun, will make it more pliable and easier to turn.
Place it back on the board fur out, leave the front legs
tucked inside, ears can be turned back fur out or left inside
out on the inside of the pelt. The pelt can be removed after
about three more days and then hung up till ready to ship.
Bears are left tacked out until completely dry.

SHIPPING
Wolves can be lightly folded in three, Wolverines folded in
half for shipping. For Bears, fold the legs in, then fold one
side in, then the other overtop, now roll it up loosely and
tie a string around it.
Open, Pale Colour, Good Pattern

Cased, Medium Colour, Average Pattern

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PELT PREPARATION OF
BE AR AND TIMBERWOLF

Proper Handling of Bears’ Feet

Poor Handling of Bears’ Feet

Proper Handling of Bears’ Ears

Poor Handling of Bears’ Ears

Proper Handling of Timberwolves’ Feet

Poor Handling of Timberwolves’ Feet

41

PROPER HANDLING OF
BE AR PELT AND FEET

Preparation of Bear Feet Without Distorting the
Claw Cushions, Very Good Drying Process

Preparation and Drying of the Head,
and the Lips Have Been Split

42

Pictures by
Pierre Yves Collin,
NAFA collector

The Bone of the Claw Has Been
Taken Out Until the Last Joint

Preparation of Bear Ears,
Cartilage Taken Out and Dried

Feet — Left: Leather Side and Right: Fur Side.

NORTH AMERICAN FUR AUCTIONS
65 SK Y WAY AVE, TORONTO, ON M9W 6C7 CANADA | TEL: +1.416.675.9320 | FA X: +1.416.675.6865 | W W W.NAFA.CA

STANDARD SIZES: WILD FUR
R ACCOON
SIZE
6XL
5XL
4XL
3XL
2XL
XL
LGE
LM
MED
SML

ERMINE
LENGTH

Over 104.0cm
96.5 – 104.0cm
89.0 – 96.5cm
81.0 – 89.0cm
73.5 – 81.0cm
68.5 – 73.5cm
61.0 – 68cm
55 – 60cm
51 – 55cm
Under 51cm

SIZE
Over 41"
38"– 41"
35"– 38"
32"– 35"
29"– 32"
27"– 29"
24"– 27"
22"– 24"
20"– 22"
Under 20"

BE AVER
SIZE

LENGTH

2XL–3XL Over 165.0cm
XL
152.5 – 165.0cm
LGE
140.0 – 152.5cm
LM
129.5 – 140.0cm
MED
119.5 – 129.5cm
SM
107.0 – 119.5cm
X-SM
Under 107.0cm

WILD MINK
SIZE
XL-L
LM

(Widths of certain varieties may vary according to section)

Over 65"
60"– 65"
55"– 60"
51"– 55"
47"– 51"
42"– 47"
Under 42"

(MALE)

LENGTH
Over 53.5cm
48.0 – 53.5cm

Over 21"
19" – 21"

2XL
XL
LGE
MED
SML

LYNX
LENGTH

Over 38.0cm
33.0 – 38.0cm
28.0 – 33.0cm
23.0 –28.0cm
Under 23.0cm

Over 15"
13" – 15"
11" – 13"
9" – 11"
Under 9"

4XL
3XL
2XL
XL/LGE
M–SM

SIZE
MED
SML

(FEMALE)

Over 66.0cm
61.0 – 66.0 cm
56.0 – 61.0cm
46.0 – 56.0cm
Under 46.0cm

Over 17"
Under 17"

FISHER
SIZE
LGE
MED
SML*

Over 26"
24" – 26"
22" – 24"
18" – 22"
Under 18"

Over 28"
25"– 28"
Under 25"

(*Females only)

SIZE
3XL
2XL
XL
LGE
MED
SML
X-SM

LENGTH
Over 17"
15.5" – 17"
14" – 15.5"
13" – 14"
11.5" – 13"
10" – 11.5"
Under 10"

Over 40"
36" – 40"
32" – 36"
28" – 32"
24" – 28"
Under 24"

SIZE

3XL
2XL
XL
LGE
L–M
MED
SML

LENGTH
Over 330.0cm
292.0 – 330.0cm
254.0 – 292.0cm
216.0 – 254.0cm
178.0 – 216.0cm
152.0 – 178.0cm
Under 152.5cm

Over 130"
115" – 130"
100" – 115"
85" – 100"
70" – 85"
60" – 70"
Under 60"

WOLVERINE
4XL
3XL
2XL
XL
LGE

LENGTH
Over 104.0cm
96.5 – 104.0cm
89.0 – 96.5cm
81.0 – 89.0cm
Under 81.0cm

2XL
XL
LGE
MED
SM

LENGTH
Over 58.5cm
53.5 – 58.5cm
46.0 – 53.5cm
40.5 – 46.0cm
Under 40.5cm

Over 41"
38"– 41"
35" – 38"
32"– 35"
Under 32"

Over 23"
21" – 23"
18" – 21"
16" – 18"
Under 16"

OT TER
SIZE
3XL
2XL
XL
LGE
LM
MED
SML

LENGTH
Over 106.7cm
101.6 – 106.7cm
96.5 – 101.6cm
86.5cm
81.0cm
76.0cm
Under 76.0cm

Over 42"
40" – 42"
38" – 40"
34"
32"
30"
Under 30"

COYOTE

RED FOX
XL–L
M–SM

Over 43.0cm
39.5 – 43.0cm
35.5 – 39.5cm
33.0 – 35.5cm
29.0 – 33.0cm
25.5 – 28.0cm
Under 25.5cm

LENGTH
Over 101.6cm
91.5 – 101.6cm
81.0 – 91.5 cm
71.0 – 81.0cm
61.0 – 71.0cm
Under 61.0cm

SIZE

SIZE

MUSKR AT

2XL
XL
LGE
MED
SM
XSM

SABLE (MARTEN)

LENGTH
Over 71.0cm
63.5 – 71.0cm
Under 63.5cm

Over 39"
35" – 39"
31" – 35"
Under 31"

BLACK/BROWN BEAR

SIZE

LENGTH
Over 43.0cm
Under 43.0cm

LENGTH
Over 99.0cm
89.0 – 99.0cm
79.0 – 89.0cm
Under 79.0cm

SIZE
LENGTH

(Smaller males sized with females)

WILD MINK

XL
LGE
MED
SML

LYNX CAT

OPOSSUM
SIZE

SIZE

SIZE
LENGTH

Over 71.0cm
Under 71.0cm

Over 28"
Under 28"

LENGTH

2XL
Over 106.5cm
XL–L
92.0 – 106.5cm
M–SM Under 92.0cm

Over 42"
36" – 42"
Under 36"

TIMBERWOLF
SIZE
4XL
3XL
2XL
XL
LGE
MED

LENGTH
Over 167.6cm
152.0 – 167.6 cm
137.0 – 152.0cm
122.0 – 137.0cm
107.0 – 122.0cm
Under 107.0cm

Over 66"
60" – 66"
54" – 60"
48" – 54"
42" – 48"
Under 42"

STANDARD SIZES WILD FUR FEBRUARY 2012

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Plan—1st
and 2nd
Grade
Lesson
Plan—2nd
Grade

Grade Level(s): 1st & 2nd
Setting: Classroom

Introduction:
Welcome to the Rangers in the Classroom—Bear Essentials presentation. This program introduces students to the American Black
Bear. It provides a framework for understanding Black Bear habitat,
diet, and lifecycle. It also explains how human activity can have a
negative impact on a bear’s natural behavior.

D uration: 45 min —1 hour
O bjective:

Standards Addressed:
1st Grade
° Science—Life Sciences:
2.a, 2.c, 2.d
° Listening and Speaking:
1.1, 1.2
° Reading Comprehension:
2.2
2nd Grade
° Science—Life Sciences:
2.a, 2.c, 2.d
° Listening and Speaking:
1.3, 1.4
Vocabulary:
boar, cub, habitat,
hibernate, sow, species

After completing this lesson, 2nd grade students will be able to:
1. Explain how sows communicate with their cubs.
2. List 2 types of food black bears eat.
3. List three things bears are.
° ° Science:
Materials:
° We Are Bears by Molly Grooms and Lucia Guarnotta
° Laminated photo sheets corresponding to We Are Bears
° Animal Materials:
° Black Bear skull (two)
° Black Bear pelt (two)
° Bear scat replica (one)
° Black Bear puppet
° Relay Race boxes (two)
° Park maps and student fee waivers

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Lesson
Plan—1st
Plan—2nd
and 2nd
Grade
Grade

Presentation:
Introduction
Bears capture our imagination as few other animals do. They have inspired stories and cultural icons such as Winnie the Pooh, Yogi bear, Paddington bear, Goldilocks and the Three Bears,
Smokey Bear, and teddy bears. They appeal to many of our emotions and values: fear, humor,
grace and strength.
Seeing a bear in the wild is an unforgettable experience. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks—right in your backyard—is home to the American black bear, which is one of the 8 species
of bears found in the world. Black bears are found only in North America. Today, we will learn
about these fascinating bears and how our behavior influences bear behavior and how bear
behavior influences us.
Read We Are Bears by Molly Grooms and Lucia Guarnotta aloud to the class.
Bears are described as many things in this story. Can you name one?
A. Climbers—In the story, the cubs scampered up the tree when mama bear gave a warning signal.
Mama bears/females are called sows.
1. What was her signal? A snort. She might also whine, woof like a dog or grunt to
communicate with her cubs. How does your mom signal danger?
2. Bears are natural climbers. (They do not have to be taught.) They will climb to escape
danger, to eat, to rest and to play.
3. What special feature do black bears have that allows them to climb trees so easily? Claws.
4. Show pelt with claws. Two inch long, curved claws allow them to grip the tree. Could you
climb a tree with just your fingernails?
B. Searchers—In the story, what did the mama bear and cubs use to find food? They used their long
noses. Do you use your nose to find food?
1. Bears have a much keener sense of smell than humans.
2. Show skull. Note the length of nose and internal “webbing.”
3. This excellent sense of smell helps them detect their cubs, other bears, humans and, of
course, food. They can detect smells three miles away. Give an example of this distance, so
the students can imagine how far this is.
C. Swimmers—In the story, where did the cubs and mama bear go when the bees were chasing
them? They went into the lake. Do you know how to swim?
1. Bears will swim for pleasure and purpose. Water provides a way to escape from insects,
to cool off, to feed (insects, frogs, fish), to relieve itching, to play, float, scratch, soak and
splash.
2. Bears swim “doggy paddle” fashion and shake off water like a dog.
3. Show pelt with paws. Big paws help them swim.
D. Diggers—In the story, what did mama bear do when the cubs were hungry after swimming? She
dug up roots and reeds. Do you dig up your food?
1. Bears use their claws to dig up roots, to turn over rocks for food underneath and to find

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Lesson
Plan—1st
Plan—2nd
and 2nd
Grade
Grade

insects in hollow logs.
2. Show pelt with claws. Each bear paw has five toes and five sharp claws.
3. Bears also use their long, sticky tongue to pick up the insects they find.
E. Teachers—In the story, why was mama bear proud of her cubs? She was proud of them for
learning so much during their first day out of the den.
1. Sows spend the first summer teaching their cubs what food to eat and where to find it.
2. Problem: they may teach their cubs bad habits like stealing food from cars, camp sites,
trash cans or feeding from bird feeders. When this happens, we have a nuisance bear or
problem bear.
a. Since bears are curious and have a good memory, it is hard to break them of the
habit of stealing human food once they have a taste for it.
b. They learn to associate humans with an easy food supply. This causes conflicts
between humans and bears.
c. They lose the good habits they developed for life in the wild and pick up habits that
are bad for both the bears and humans, such as destruction of property. If the bad
habits become persistent, the problem bear must sometimes be destroyed.
e. People need to take special precautions to ensure that bears never get to taste
human food.
F. Sleepers—In the story, what did the cubs do once they were full of their mother’s milk? They
took a nap. Do you get sleepy when your belly is full?
1. Generally, bears eat and sleep throughout the day.
2. When winter is on its way, the mother bear and her cubs will find a new den. During the
first winter, the cubs will hibernate with their mother. They are very flexible with the type of
den they use. They may use hollowed out logs or trees or make a nest out of thick ground
cover.
3. Hibernation is a state of dormancy and inactivity used by bears and other animals to
adapt to scanty food supplies during winter. It is not in response to the cold, but to seasonal
food shortages.
4. To prepare for hibernation, bears will eat about twenty thousand calories each day. That
is like eating forty- two hamburgers. Could you eat that many hamburgers in one day?
Bears are also:
G. Guardians—Sows are very protective of their cubs. Do you get reminded to look both ways
before crossing the street?
1. Sows are always looking out for potential danger. It is their job to keep cubs safe.
2. Papa bears are called boars and do not stay to help raise the cubs. Boars may actually eat
the young cubs, so the sow keeps her cubs away from other bears.
H. Siblings—Sows average two cubs per litter. Do you have any brothers and/or sisters?
1. Each bear has its own personality and coloration. Do you look like either of your parents
or your siblings?
2. Bear brothers and sisters sometimes continue to live together after they leave their
mother during their second summer. By their third summer, they each go their own way to
live their solitary life.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Lesson
Plan—1st
Plan—2nd
and 2nd
Grade
Grade

Bear Activities for 2nd Grade (time permitting)
#1 Bear Song (5—10 minutes)
Directions:
1. This activity takes place in the classroom.
2. Have the students spread out so they have room to maneuver.
3. The song is set to the “Farmer in the Dell” tune.
4. The ranger will sing the first line and the students should join in for the repeat of that line and
the chorus.
5. Explain to the students that they should move their bodies to match what the bear is doing in
the song and demonstrate the movements.

The Bear in the Forest
The bear stretches his legs (ranger), the bear stretches his legs (everyone), hi ho the berry oh the bear stretches his legs (everyone)
The bear scratches his back (ranger), the bear scratches his back (everyone), hi ho the berry oh the bear scratches his back (everyone)
The bear swims the river (ranger), the bear swims the river (everyone), hi ho the berry - oh the
bear swims the river (everyone)
The bear runs through the woods (ranger), the bear runs through the woods (everyone), hi ho
the berry - oh the bear runs through the woods (everyone)
The bear climbs a tree (ranger), the bear climbs a tree (everyone), hi ho the berry - oh the bear
climbs a tree (everyone)
The bear digs for grubs (ranger), the bear digs for grubs (everyone), hi ho the berry - oh the
bear digs for grubs (everyone)
The bear takes a nap (ranger), the bear takes a nap (everyone), hi ho the berry - oh the bear
takes a nap (everyone)
#2 Relay Race (20—3 0 minutes)
Directions:
1. This activity takes place outside. Make sure the students are dressed for the weather.
2. If the weather is too bad to play outside, this activity can be modified for an indoor version
similar to Jeopardy. See below #10.
3. Divide the students into two teams and have them pick a team name.
4. Take the two teams outside and select a start line. Place the two relay boxes about twenty to
thirty feet away from the start line.
5. Have the teams make two straight lines behind the start line.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Lesson
Plan—1st
Plan—2nd
and 2nd
Grade
Grade

6. Explain the rules to the students:
a. The ranger will read a question about bears to the first two students on each team.
b. When the ranger gives the signal, these two students will run down to the relay box to
find the right answer.
c. Once the student finds the answer, s/he will then run back and give the answer to the
ranger. The answer card will be returned to the relay box by the next player.
d. If a student returns with the wrong answer, the ranger will reread the question and have
the student run back to the relay box to try again.
e. When the question has been answered correctly by both teams, these players will go to
the back of the line and the ranger will read a question to the next two players. Make sure
they have the answer cards from the previous players to return to the box.
f. The relay will continue until every student has had a chance to answer a question.
Repeat questions, if necessary, to make sure every student gets to play.
g. The team with the least number of wrong answers wins the game.
7. Once the relay race is over, have the players return to their straight lines.
8. Pick a volunteer from each team to retrieve the relay boxes.
9. When the students are quiet and paying attention, walk them back to their classroom.
10. If the weather is too rough for playing outside, have the two teams line up inside the
classroom. Instead of racing to the relay box, set the boxes near each team for safe and easy access. Proceed with the game as described above.
RELAY QUESTIONS:
1. Bears are climbers. What do bears use to climb trees? Claws.
2. Bears are searchers. What does a bear use to sniff out food? Nose or snout.
3. Where does a bear go to hibernate? Den or Cave.
4. What kind of bear do we have here in California? American black bear.
5. What do you call a baby bear? Cub.
6. What do you call a mama bear? Sow.
7. What do you call a papa bear? Boar.
8. Bear bodies are covered with what? Fur.
9. Bears are climbers. What can bears climb to get away from danger? A tree.
10. What juicy fruit found on bushes do bears like to eat? Berries.
11. What sticky sweet treat do bears like to eat? Honey.
12. What do bears with bad habits like to eat? Human food.
13. Where do black bears live? The forest.
14. Bears are swimmers. Where can bears go to cool off? Lake or river.
15. What do bears use to pick up insects? Tongue.
Conclusion
Bears are many things: climbers, searchers, swimmers, diggers, teachers and sleepers. We hope
that you will come visit us in the parks where you may get lucky and see a black bear.
Explain student fee waiver and encourage students to come to the park.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Lesson
Plan—1st
Plan—2nd
and 2nd
Grade
Grade

Vocabulary
Boar—noun—adult male black bears
Cub—noun—a young black bear from birth to around age one
Habitat—noun—the natural environment of an organism
Hibernate—verb—to pass the winter in an inactive or dormant state. Black bears are not true
Hibernators. Their “hibernation” is a period of semi- dormancy.
Sow—noun—adult female black bear
Species—noun—a class of individuals having some common characteristics or qualities; the basic
category of biological classification composed of related individuals that resemble one another and
are able to breed among themselves.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson
Lesson
Plan—1st
Plan—2nd
and 2nd
Grade
Grade

Bibliography
Anderson, Margaret, Nancy Field and Karen Stephenson. Discovering Black Bears. Middleton, WI:
Dog- Eared Publications LLC, 2007.
Brown, Gary. The Great Bear Almanac. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford, Publishers, 1993.
Feeney, Kathy. Black Bears. Minnetonka, MN: NorthWord, 2000.
Martarano, Steve. “The Bear Facts on Black Bear Biology and Ecology.” Outdoor California, Volume
63: No. 4 (July—August 2002): 3—45.
Wexo, John Bonnett. Zoobooks Bears. Poway, California: Wildlife Education, Ltd., 2005.
http://www.zoobooks.com
http://www.greatbear.org
http://www.billybear4kids.com
http://www.defenders.org
http://www.sierrawildbear.net
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/black- bear.html

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

Grade Level(s): 3rd & 4th
Setting: Classroom

Introduction:
Welcome to the Rangers in the Classroom—Bear Essentials presentation. This program introduces students to the American Black
Bear. It provides a framework for understanding Black Bear habitat,
diet, and lifecycle. It also explains how human activity can have a
negative impact on a bear’s natural behavior.

D uration: 45 min —1 hour
O bjective:

Standards Addressed:
3rd Grade
° Science—Life Sciences:
3.a, 3.c, 3.d
° Listening and Speaking:
1.1, 1.3
4th Grade
° Science—Life Sciences:
3.a, 3.b, 3.c
° Listening and Speaking:
1.1, 1.2
Vocabulary:
adaptation, boar, carrion,
cub, dormant, habitat,
hibernate, range, sow,
species, territory, yearling

After completing this lesson, 3rd and 4th grade students will be
able to:
1. Explain why black bears are dormant during the winter.
2. Identify two senses black bears rely on for finding food and
sensing danger.
3. Discuss what happens when black bears become accustomed
to eating human food.
°°S
Materials:
° We Are Bears by Molly Grooms and Lucia Guarnotta
° Laminated photo sheets corresponding to We Are Bears
° Animal Materials:
° Black Bear skull (two)
° Black Bear pelt (two)
° Black Bear scat replica (one)
° Black Bear puppet
° A Bear’s Life Game: cards (seventy- five) and cloth bags (two)
° Park maps and student fee waivers

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

Presentation:
Introduction
Bears capture our imagination as few other animals do. They have inspired stories and cultural icons such as Winnie the Pooh, Yogi bear, Paddington bear, Goldilocks and the Three Bears,
Smokey Bear, and teddy bears. They appeal to many of our emotions and values: fear, humor,
grace and strength.
Seeing a bear in the wild is an unforgettable experience. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks—right in your backyard—is home to the American black bear, which is one of the 8 species
of bears found in the world. Black bears are found only in North America. Today, we will learn
about these fascinating bears and how our behavior influences bear behavior and how bear
behavior influences us.
Read We Are Bears by Molly Grooms and Lucia Guarnotta aloud to the class.
A. Where does this story begin? It begins in the mother’s den. Mama bears/female bears are called
sows.
1. What do you think would make a good den for a bear? Get students thinking about what
would make a good, safe and warm den.
2. Black bear dens:
a. Are usually caves, rocky overhangs, hollow trees or the holes created by fallen
trees.
b. The size of the den depends on the size of the bear. There should be just enough
room for the bear to turn around.
1. A larger den would waste precious body heat.
c. Usually, they only use a den for one winter. They find a new one each year.
B. Why were the cubs and the sow in the den? “Hibernating.”
1. Ask the students to describe what hibernation is like.
2. Black bears are not true hibernators. Their winter sleep is usually called
hibernation anyway.
3. They are dormant because their primary source of food—vegetation—is scarce during the
cold season.
4. During the winter dormant period they do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate, but may
wake up if aroused, to change position or to leave the den temporarily.
5. They live off the body fat they accumulated by eating during summer and fall.
6. The length of hibernation depends on climate, location, age, sex and reproductive status.
7. Sows will have their cubs during this period.
C. Black Bear Cubs:
1. Are born blind in the mother’s den during the winter.
2. They are covered with very fine hair, but look almost naked. The mother’s body heat
keeps them warm.
3. They weigh about half a pound at birth.
4. Usually, two cubs are born, but there can be from one to four in a litter.
5. Boars do not stay around to help raise the young. They may eat the cubs.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

D. Forest Habitat—When the cubs came out of the den, what world did they find?
1. Most black bears live in a forest habitat. (In the far south, they may live in swamps. In
the far north, they may live in areas without trees.)
2. What does the forest provide for the bears? Get students thinking about what bears need
to live and survive.
3. Forest habitat provides food, water, mating opportunities, space and shelter.
4. Bear size can be affected by habitat quality. Abundant, highly nutritional food produces
larger bears.
5. California used to have both black bears and brown bears (a.k.a. grizzly bears).
a. What happened to brown bears in California?
1. Brown bears used to live in the interior of California.
2. They were hunted to extinction in the early 1920’s (almost one hundred
years ago).
3. There is one brown bear left in California. It can be found on the state flag.
E. Territory or Home Range
1. Within the forest habitat, bears stick to an area called their territory or home range.
a. They have home ranges, but are not territorial—meaning they do not defend a
particular area from other bears.
b. The size of the territory depends on the amount of food available for the bear. If
there is little food, the range will be bigger for the bear to find enough to eat.
c. The bear usually stays in the same territory its whole life, but they do not stay in
one place within this area.
2. Compare “Territory or Home Range” with “Range”
a. Range describes where in the world the animal can be found. The range of black
bears is in the forested areas of North America. Show map of black bear range.
b. Since this is also where humans live, the black bear is the kind of bear that people
are most likely to see.
F. Sows and Cubs—What did the sow do the first day out of the den with her cubs? She taught them
how to be a bear.
1. Sows spend the first summer teaching their cubs what to eat and where to find it.
2. Bears have excellent memories and will remember places where they found a tasty meal.
3. They will return to these places year after year and teach their cubs the route to these
favorite feeding areas (much like humans return to a favorite restaurant).
4. They are always looking for food. It is how they spend most of their waking hours, for
they must eat enough and put on enough fat to make it through the winter.
5. Cubs learn to watch their mother for signs of danger, but they are also very curious and
playful.
6. If they wander too far, the sow will call them back with grunts or will woof (like a dog) to
warn of danger.
7. In the story, the cubs knew to climb a tree at their mama’s signal. She will also signal
when it is safe to come down.
8. Cubs stay with their mother for the first year. They will den together their first winter.
9. When they come out of hibernation in their second spring, the cubs are now yearlings.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

10. They leave their mother during their second summer, but siblings will remain together
for another year or more. Usually, by their third summer, they each go their own way to live
their solitary life.
G. Black bears have a variety of physical features that serve different functions. Different features
make it possible for them to be climbers, swimmers, searchers etc.
1. Snout
a. Bears rely heavily on their sense of smell to find food and sense danger. They are
always sniffing the air to check for other bears, humans and threats.
b. They have a much keener sense of smell than humans.
c. Show the bear skull and discuss the size of nasal passages compared to skull size
and the “webbing” within the passages that form the framework for scenting cells.
d. They can detect smells three miles away. Give an example of this distance, so the
students can imagine how far this is.
2. Scent
a. Each bear has its own scent. During mating season, the boars will rub their scent
on trees to attract mates.
b. A bear’s scent is also in its scat and tracks.
c. Scent and an excellent sense of smell helps them detect their cubs.
3. Claws
a. Claws are short and curved. They are arranged in an arc and do not retract.
b. Show pelt with foot pad and claw.
c. Even adult black bears can climb trees, unlike the much larger brown bear, which
can weigh over a thousand pounds—much too heavy to climb trees.
4. Size
a. In this region: Females—up to one hundred and fifty pounds. Males—two hundred
and fifty to three hundred pounds.
b. In other parts of North America, they grow up to six hundred pounds.
5. Lips
a. Their lips separate from their gums, so they can use them to grasp small berries.
6. Tongue
a. Their long, sticky tongue is very sensitive. They stick it into tree trunks to get ants
and other insects.
7. Ears
a. Prominent, oval shaped ears to help capture sound.
b. Cubs ears are almost the same size as adult ears so they are very prominent on
cubs.
c. Black bears have very good hearing.
8. Fur
a. Color: black, brown, cinnamon or blond with a tan muzzle or snout.
b. Blaze: white patch of hair on their chest or throat. It can help identify the bear.
c. The top layer of long shiny hairs are called guard hairs.
d. In preparation for winter, bears will grow a thick layer of fur under the light
summer coat. This will be shed in the spring to keep cool in the warm summer.
9. Teeth

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade
a. Black bears are omnivores. They eat both plants and animals.
b. Their teeth reflect this. They have both meat eating teeth (canines to pierce, hold
and tear into prey) and plant eating teeth (molars for mashing up and grinding plant
material).
c. Show skull and point out teeth and their function.
10. Body movement
a. Bears are related to dogs, wolves and foxes.
b. Their skeleton looks much like a dog’s with larger bones.
c. Their body looks lumpy and clumsy, but don’t be fooled. They are strong and fast.
d. Like humans, bears put their feet flat on the ground when they walk. Other
animals like dogs, cats, horses and even elephants walk on their toes.
e. The flat footed stance makes it easy for them to stand up, but they rarely walk on
just two legs.
f. When they walk, they turn their front paws inwards in a “pigeon toed” position.
H. Diet—Lots to eat in the world when you are an omnivore.
1. Most of their diet consists of grasses, roots, berries and insects, but they will eat fish,
small mammals and carrion.
2. Bears are considered “opportunistic eaters” and eat anything.
1. Problem: They will easily develop a taste for human food and garbage and start to
behave unlike wild bears.
I. Behavior
1. When bears start foraging for human food (bending door frames to break into cars,
tearing into a backseat to get into a locked trunk), this changes in foraging behavior causes
changes in other aspects of bear behavior.
2. For example, black bears are generally most active early and late in the day, tending to
nap through the hottest time of day. Changing foraging behavior causes changes in the
times of day bears are active.
3. Diets heavy in human food also cause changes in the bear’s preferred habitat.
4. Eating human food also changes bear behavior toward humans.
a. Bears are generally not aggressive to humans.
b. Fed bears become accustomed to humans as a source of food. They lose their
natural tendency to steer clear of human interaction and may become aggressive
when the food source is cut off.
5. A sow may act aggressively when she feels she cubs are being threatened.
a. An angry bear will lower its head with its ears pinned back. It may slap the ground
with its paws, snort, or click its teeth before charging. Bluff charges are common,
trying to scare away whatever it deems a threat.
6. Males show aggression toward each other during mating season. Why? Fighting over the
best females.
J. Humans and Bears
1. Human behavior influences bear behavior.
2. Humans are the biggest threat to black bears, which have few predators.
a. Black bears are killed for their gall bladders, which are sold on the black market in

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

Asia as a remedy for liver ailments.
3. There is a healthy population of about half a million bears in North America.
4. Loss of good habitat is a threat in some areas. When humans build homes in the forests
where bears live, they lose their natural home and some die.
Bear Activity—A Bear’s Life Game
A bear’s life is not easy. They need food, water, space and shelter. Bears also need good
health, a chance to mate and lots of good luck. Some bears do not live long enough to have cubs.
Some die in accidents or from starvation. Others are killed by hunters or poachers. In order for a
sow to have cubs, she needs to weigh at least one hundred and seventy- five pounds and be three
years old. To start the game, we will assume the cub has survived its first winter in the den. It has
started venturing outside the den and now weighs twenty- five pounds.
Directions:
1. The goal of this game is for our bear to survive for three years and fatten up to one hundred and
seventy- five pounds in order to have cubs. If you would like to use a bear puppet to represent our
bear, give the bear a number, explain why bears are given numbers and not names in the park,
introduce the bear to the students and explain the goal of the game.
*The idea is to get them vested in having this bear survive long enough to have cubs.
2. This is an interactive card game. There are seventy- five cards in the deck. Place the cards in one
of the empty cloth bags. The second bag is for the “used” cards.
3. Each card in the deck represents an element of the bear’s life. There are six types of cards:
(1) weight gain cards; (2) weight loss cards; (3) neutral activity cards (no weight lose or gain);
(4) DEN cards; (5) RELOCATION cards and (6) DEAD BEAR cards.
a. The weight gain and weight lose cards correspond to fluctuations in a bear’s weight based
on environmental factors. If your bear’s weight falls below zero, it has starved to death.
b. The neutral cards correspond to things bears do that do not impact weight gain or loss.
c. The DEN cards correspond to one year in a bear’s life. This means the bear has survived a
year and has denned for a winter season. The bear has also lost thirty pounds since it does
not eat and will lose weight during hibernation.
d. The RELOCATION cards correspond to the bear being caught stealing human food and has
been relocated to a remote location. Once the bear has been caught and relocated three
times, it is considered a problem bear and it is killed.
**Take this opportunity to reinforce the message about keeping bears away from human food.
e. The DEAD BEAR cards correspond to other ways bears may die in the wild.
4. The ranger or the teacher will keep track of the bear’s weight, number of DEN cards (i.e. years of
life) and the number of RELOCATION trips on the board. Write these three columns on the board.
Add or subtract weight as determined by the cards selected.
**Remember, we are starting with a cub that already weighs twenty- five pounds.
5. IF YOUR BEAR STARVES, DIES OR IS DESTROYED, YOU CAN START THE GAME AGAIN AS A NEW
BEAR. Place all the cards in one bag and begin the game again. Keep track of the number of bears
that do not survive and the number that survive long enough to have cubs.
6. To start the game: Place all the cards into a bag and mix them up.
7. The ranger will select a route through the classroom, just as a bear selects a route through the

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

woods. Have each student select a card from the bag and read it aloud to the class. If you are using
the puppet, pass it around to each student and encourage them to read their card as if they are the
bear. Once a card has been used, it should be placed in the second bag of “used” cards.
8. When you have three den points and weigh one hundred and seventy- five pounds, you win and
the bear survives to have cubs.
Conclusion
Black bears are complex creatures. They are always learning something new. We are lucky so many
bears thrive in the forests of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Since we share the environment with black bears, we must make sure our behavior does not change their behavior, for something magical is lost when a bear becomes no longer properly wild. Pass out park passes and encourage students to come to the park.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

Vocabulary
Adaptation—noun—a change or adjustment in structure or habits that allow a species or
individual to improve its condition in relationship to its environment
Boar—noun—adult male black bears
Carrion—noun—the decaying flesh of dead animals
Cub—noun—a young black bear from birth to around age one
Dormant—adjective—in a state of rest or inactivity
Habitat—noun—the natural environment of an organism
Hibernate—verb—to pass the winter in an inactive or dormant state. Black bears are not
true hibernators: their “hibernation” is a period of semi- dormancy
Range—noun—the region over which a population or species is distributed
Sow—noun—adult female black bear
Species—noun—basic category of biological classification, composed of related individuals
that resemble one another, are able to breed among themselves, but are not able to breed
with members of another species
Territory—noun—sometimes referred to as home range, although home range typically
refers to where an animal spends its time; it is larger than an animal’s defended territory
Yearling—noun—young black bear in its second year of life. For black bears, this is the
age when a young bear leaves its mother for the first time to live on its own.

Bear Essentials
Rangers in the Classroom—Presentation
Lesson Plan—3rd and 4th Grade

Bibliography
Anderson, Margaret, Nancy Field and Karen Stephenson. Discovering Black Bears. Middleton, WI:
Dog- Eared Publications LLC, 2007.
Brown, Gary. The Great Bear Almanac. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford, Publishers, 1993.
Feeney, Kathy. Black Bears. Minnetonka, MN: NorthWord, 2000.
Martarano, Steve. “The Bear Facts on Black Bear Biology and Ecology.” Outdoor California, Volume
63: No. 4 (July—August 2002): 3—45.
Wexo, John Bonnett. Zoobooks Bears. Poway, California: Wildlife Education, Ltd., 2005.
http://www.zoobooks.com
http://www.greatbear.org
http://www.billybear4kids.com
http://www.defenders.org
http://www.sierrawildbear.net
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/black- bear.html