Help ensure healthy, robust black bear populations by correctly identifying boars from sows.
Correctly identifying your target as a male bear vs. a sow is a conservation issue.
“There are a lot of bears in North America,” says Randy Newberg. “But one of the things we always want to do is to make sure that we shoot boars, not sows. It just helps to keep the population robust.”
Newberg offers some tips on how to distinguish one from the other.
The checklist of general characteristics for the boars and sows includes:
- Head shape: Boars tend to have shorter, squarish or boxy snouts, and their heads are often boxier in shape as well. Sows, on the other hand, tend to have longer, more elegant-looking snouts, and their heads tend to transition into the snout more smoothly.
- Shoulder hump: Boars, especially large boars, have a noticeable shoulder hump and/or may be almost as large up front as they are in the rear. Sows, as Newberg points out, are more pear-shaped, with larger rear ends than shoulders (cue Sir Mix-a-Lot).
- Movement: Large boars often have a swagger or attitude of belligerence when they walk. They appear more confident. Sows are often more inclined to bolt upon seeing potential danger. While timid may not be the right word, they are perhaps less lumbering or bowlegged in their carriage than boars.
- Man-parts/Lady-parts: A boar’s testicals may be visible if you have the right viewing angle, especially in spring. But in autumn when a bear’s winter coat is more lush and thick, it’s a tough ID for either sex.
- Cubs: A bear with cubs is of course automatically assumed to be a sow.
Most experienced bear hunters will tell you that it takes looking at a lot of bears to get to the point where your identification skills get more confident.
Looking at a lot of bears sounds like enjoyable homework though, doesn’t it?