Hide condition was rated according to suitability for tanning and potential trophy value. All coats examined were rated as fair or poor during July. Early in July some bears had long dense coats that appeared to be in excellent condition. Closer examination reveled that hair was loose and could be pulled out by handfulls. Hide condition remained poor through the first half of August but started improving thereafter. During the second half of August a few animals were rated as fair and by mid-September several bears had good coats. Both bears captured after mid-September had excellent coats.
Coat color was ranked as either black or brown. Black animals which had reddish or brownish tints or a lighter colored underfur, were still classed as black due to their overall appearance. Of the 24 bears observed 6 were brown, 17 were black, and 1 bear was classed as black in 1972 and brown in 1973. Table 15 presents these findings with those from other sources.
Bear M333 was captured as a cub in 1972. The cub’s color appeared dull black although some indication of an extremely dark brownish tint was evident. When captured in September of 1973, IM333 was cinnamon in color on the shoulders, neck, and down the back. On the sides and legs the cinnamon color shaded into a dark brown. The degree of fading due to normal wear and exposure to sunlight is unknown but probably contributed to this color change. Miller (1955) reported an incident involving a change in color phase of a two year old black bear. However, in Miller’s case the bear molted from cinnamon to black rather than from dull black to a lighter color.
Little information is available concerning the frequency of the white chest patch in black bears. Of 21 bears where this information was noted, 11 had a chest patch while 10 did not. Size and shape of the chest patches varied greatly.
|Table 15. Color variation among black bears at Crater Lake National Park.|