Bears have been hunted for various reasons by humans since Stone Age
people stalked the great cave bears of Europe. They are still sought for
trophy value or for various economic assets, including meat, fur, teeth,
Bear meat is prized as a food source in China, as is the
flesh of the polar bear in the Far North. The liver of the polar bear,
however, is poisonous to humans because of its high level of vitamin A.
Bear meat is considered edible, except immediately after winter. It tastes
much like pork and is similarly prepared.
The pelts of bears have been valued for centuries, and
traders have sold them for bearskin rugs, hats, coat trimmings, and muffs.
The teeth and claws of bears are used as ornaments by North American
Indians and Eskimos. Bear fat serves as a grease for frying food and for
softening materials such as leather. In North America the grizzly has been
a favorite prey of hunters.
Live bears have been used throughout the ages as
entertainment, sometimes in ways that now seem cruel. The Roman emperor
Caligula once staged a tremendous fight, pitting 400 bears against large
dogs and gladiators. In Europe, until the late 17th century, a spectacle
called bearbaiting was common: a dog attacked a bear chained to a stake.
The trapping of bears is sometimes considered necessary to
protect property, because bears can cause considerable damage. The grizzly
bear often attacks livestock, and some bears destroy fruit trees and other
All of these incentives for hunting bears have resulted in
the reduction of bear populations in some parts of the world. The brown
bear has been almost eliminated from many parts of Europe, and during the
19th century grizzlies were almost exterminated in the United States. In
many countries today bears are protected in national parks and by
carefully regulated hunting policies.
From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1998
The bears available to hunters on the North American continent range from
Alaskan Brown (averaging 800 pounds live weight, and they've been known to
1,600 pounds), through the Grizzly (which actually can be colored from
cream to black), to the smaller American Black Bear (which isn't really
may be cinnamon, dark brown, blue-grey, or cream) and will range from 200
pounds live weight.
As with any game, the young animals are much more tender and, in the case
bears, much more tasty. While bears are still in the juvenile stage their
consists mainly of berries and roots. When bears reach 2 years, they turn
omnivorous, eating fish from streams if available and even eating carrion.
It's quite common for a bear to prefer a "high" garbage pail to a fresh
While the eviscerating of a bear is one of the most unpleasant chores in
cleaning, it is wise to check the stomach contents; if there is a sign
bear has been eating fish, keep it in mind. That fish taste will be in
when you eat it. Heavy seasonings and use of many herbs can help to some
extent, as can marinating, but the fish taste is still there.
If you question the age of the animal, check the claws and teeth. Both
sharper in young animals. Since bears can be subject to the trichinosis
the flesh should always be well cooked. This is not much of a disadvantage
however, since even young bear is tough if cooked rare. Only young bear,
incidentally, does not require moist cooking.
Bear should be hung for at least a week before cutting. The usual cuts
the saddle, loin, haunch, and ribs. The paws of young bears are
delicacy by some. To skin bear-paw pads, hold over an open fire until the
on the pads blisters, then peel off. Cut off the nails.
The heavy body fat can be stripped off and rendered. This a traditional
for leather goods, and many western cooks prefer to use bear fat in cake
although personally I don't care to use it that way.
Jacqueline E. Knight