The state Division of Natural Resources conducted a poll to elect a state animal as a symbol for West Virginia in 1954. The students, teachers, and sportsmen of West Virginia chose the black bear as the the animal symbol for West Virgnia by a large margin. The bear population has been increasing since then, living in all of West Virginia's 55 counties. The black bear is also the state mammal of Louisiana (photo of black bear swimming) and state animal of New Mexico (photo of black bear standing).
Black bears are very intelligent, shy, and secretive animals - actually seeing a bear in the wild is a very rare experience. Black bears (Ursus americanus) are not always black - there are cinnamon, white, beige, and "blue" (slate gray) black bears. Adult black bears vary considerably in size, from 130 - 500 pounds (occasionally as much as 700). The black bear is omnivorous and will eat just about anything. While they prefer nuts, berries, grasses, and roots, they also eat insects and small mammals, and if nothing else is available, carrion. The black bear ranges from the far north (Alaska and northern Canada) to northern Mexico. They can run up to 30 mph and are good swimmers.
The black Bear is a solitary creature (except females with cubs). A mating pair may stay together for one to several days, then part ways. The cubs are born in the winter during hibernation, and will remain with their mother until their second summer. When they emerge from the winter den the mother teaches the cubs which plants to eat and where to find the grubs and other insects that will supplement their diets.